TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—Those with certain comorbidities can begin to sign up for their COVID-19 vaccinations around New York State now, with appointments beginning Feb. 15. Locally, however, the Tompkins County Health Department will prioritize people who are 65 and older with an eligible comorbidity as they allocate vaccinations.

Those who are under 65 but have an eligible comorbidity could look elsewhere for their appointments then. As of 2:15 p.m. on Feb. 15, there were still appointments available in Syracuse and Potsdam, though they could certainly go quick. State-run sites, of which there are 20 around New York, have been receiving a higher number of dosages than local health department sites, like the one run by Tompkins County and Cayuga Health Services at the Ithaca Mall.

Meanwhile, when there is enough supply, the Tompkins County Health Department announced that they also will be granting eligibility to those who have one or more of the approved comorbidities, and that third party proof will not be necessary for people to schedule or receive their vaccinations. The self-attestation form is here, and there will be physical versions ready at vaccination sites.

In accordance with the CDC and the New York State Department of Health, this is the list of comorbidities that qualify for eligibility:

  • Cancer (current or in remission, including 9/11-related cancers);
  • Chronic kidney disease;
  • Pulmonary Disease, including but not limited to, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), asthma (moderate-to-severe), pulmonary fibrosis, cystic fibrosis, and 9/11 related pulmonary diseases;
  • Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities including Down Syndrome;
  • Heart conditions, including but not limited to heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies, or hypertension (high blood pressure);
  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) including but not limited to solid organ transplant or from blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, use of other immune weakening medicines, or other causes;
  • Severe Obesity (BMI 40 kg/m2), Obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30 kg/m2 or higher but < 40 kg/m2);
  • Pregnancy;
  • Sickle cell disease or Thalassemia;
  • Type 1 or 2 diabetes mellitus;
  • Cerebrovascular disease (affects blood vessels and blood supply to the brain);
  • Neurologic conditions, including but not limited to Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia;
  • Liver disease

Unlike some other places, smoking is not considered an eligible comorbidity in New York—at least not yet.

It’s still unclear how many vaccine doses will be allocated to the county for distribution to those with comoborbidities and others under the Phase 1B categorization. Over the last several weeks, the number of allocations for each week have been announced on Tuesdays, so perhaps more clarity will come on Feb. 16.

“Individuals with comorbidities and those in older age groups are at higher risk of serious illness related to COVID-19,” Kruppa said. “Getting this population more widely vaccinated will protect our most vulnerable community members. We’ve developed this attestation form to simplify the process and remove additional barriers to accessing the vaccine.”

The ongoing list of prioritized populations is here. Those with questions remaining can seek more information by emailing COVID19vaccines@tompkins-co.org.

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Education & Public Health Reporter at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com