Cuomo and Reed

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (left) and U.S. Rep. Tom Reed.

U.S. Rep. Tom Reed stepped up his criticism of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s recent comments on a COVID-19 vaccine, with the congressman saying they represent a risk to the lives of thousands of New Yorkers.

Reed, R-Corning, in his weekly news call with reporters on Wednesday, said he found Cuomo’s comments on the vaccine being rushed and allegations of “profiteering” by two vaccine developers “appalling and disgusting.”

Reed first raised the issue over the weekend with two other Republican New York congressmen, Elise Stefanik and Chris Jacobs.

“We are appalled by Governor Cuomo’s continued insistence on undermining a COVID-19 vaccine, the integrity of the FDA, and the hundreds of incredible scientists who have dedicated their lives to serving the American people,” the Republican congressmen said in a statement.

“New Yorkers don’t need Gov. Cuomo to decide what life-saving medical resources they should or shouldn’t have access to,” he said. “Instead, they need their leaders to put aside the politics and prioritize combating this virus together.”

Reed said Wednesday he was “very concerned” over what he called Cuomo’s “discrediting the ability of the vaccine.” He said he feared Cuomo’s comments would encourage people not to take doses that could be “the ultimate solution” to COVID-19.

The Southern Tier congressman who was just re-elected to a sixth term and has expressed interest in running for governor against Cuomo, said the governor enjoys his daily press call and being the center of attention and doesn’t appear to be in a rush for a COVID-19 vaccine. Cuomo’s ego has gotten in the way of his leadership in the state’s coronavirus fight, Reed told reporters.

“What is he thinking? We should be celebrating the vaccine,” Reed said, adding the governor’s vaccine statements were “irresponsible and idiotic.”

President Trump last Friday suggested the vaccine would not be delivered to New York, reportedly in response to Cuomo’s statement in September that New York would form an independent task force to review data on any vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Other Northeast states and California have similar task forces to review FDA vaccine data before it is distributed.

On Sunday, the governor called for “an equitable distribution” process for the vaccine or the state would bring legal action. Cuomo said Trump’s plan for pharmacies, private doctors and hospitals to administer the vaccines did not take minority neighborhoods into consideration.

Delays in administering the vaccine could result in thousands of additional COVID-19 deaths in New York, Reed said.

“(Cuomo) should be working to get the vaccine distributed in New York as soon as possible,” Reed said.

Counties in New York were required to submit a vaccine distribution plan to the state Health Department by Monday.

Senior Cuomo adviser Rich Azzopardi said last week on Twitter that the governor “is fighting to ensure the communities hit hardest by COVID get the vaccine.” Trump, he said “has failed with his pandemic response, lied to Americans about how bad it was when he knew otherwise and was fired by voters for his incompetence.”

Reed said those most susceptible to the coronavirus — the elderly and those underlying health conditions — will be prioritized to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it becomes available including frontline healthcare workers and first responders and police.

“I am very confident of the FDA” Reed said of the upcoming FDA and CDC reviews of potential COVID-19 vaccines. “I believe it (vaccione) is safe and effective.”

Asked by one reporter whether the president was endangering American lives by refusing to allow the federal General Services Administration to acknowledge Joe Biden as the president-elect so information — including coronavirus vaccine plans — can be shared with the Biden transition team, Reed did not answer the question.

Later, Reed said he did not see any parallels between Cuomo’s comments, which the congressman said served to cause people to question the vaccine, and remarks and actions of the president over the past several months that did not convey the seriousness of the virus and the need to wear masks and social distance to prevent the spread of the virus.

The governor, said Reed, was engaging in political grandstanding. “We should be working together during this crisis,” he added.

“There should be sharing of this information when it comes time for the transition to occur,” Reed said. “The vaccines will save lives.”

Reed, who is one of only a few Republican lawmakers to congratulate Biden after he was declared the winner of the presidential contest on Saturday, encouraged the Trump administration to work together with the president elect’s transition team.

He also encouraged his Republican colleagues to be prepared for a Biden presidency after Trump exhausts his court appeals of election results in several battleground states.

Reed also said he spoke Tuesday with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin about coronavirus relief, emphasizing the need for limited federal enhanced unemployment benefits.

State unemployment agencies should be better prepared to administer the enhanced benefits, Reed said.

Most states have now provided a means for the federal government to contribute a percentage of an unemployed person’s lost wages instead of the $600 flat amount initially offered last spring, he said.

(Contact reporter Rick Miller at rmiller@oleantimesherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)

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