Some 9/11 First Responders Still Ineligible for COVID-19 Vaccination, Despite Preexisting Conditions

Some 9/11 first responders are still ineligible for getting a coronavirus vaccination, even if they have pre-existing conditions, due to the standards set up by New York state. Last week, attorneys representing some of the survivors and first responders of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack believe they should be among the groups prioritized for the vaccine. New Yorkers 65 and over are eligible for the vaccine, but New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has still not given the green light to those who are under 65 with underlying health conditions.

The average age for 9/11 first responders is 59, reports CBS New York, meaning many are still ineligible, even if they have health conditions that mean they are at a higher risk of dying after contracting the coronavirus. "We all had a baseline of being healthy and now, now we're devastated," retired NYPD member Tom Wilson, who has mouth cancer after his heroism on 9/11, told CBS New York. "I have major heart issues. I have asthma," Rich Palmer, a former corrections officer, added.

John Feal, founder of the FealGood Foundation, told CBS NY that the 65-and-over group is filling up appointment slots for months. Since anyone over 65 is eligible, that means some 9/11 first responders are waiting behind healthy New Yorkers. "We are relying on a vaccination to prolong our already shortened life. This is disturbing," Feal said. "We are demanding that these men and women, uniformed and non-uniformed, get vaccinated. It's that simple. They will die without the vaccination."

9/11 first responders have been fighting non-stop for health coverage after they developed cancers and other illnesses while saving lives. Feal called it an "insult" for them to have to struggle again to get the COVID-19 vaccine. "We were lied to 20 years ago, we're sick because we were lied to," he told WCBS 880. He said he has received hundreds of messages and phone calls from first responders asking when they will be eligible. Feal estimated that about 60 9/11 first responders died from COVID-19-related complications.

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"We continue to do everything possible to get as many New Yorkers vaccinated as quickly as possible," the New York Health Department said in a statement to CBS NY. "Currently over 7 million New Yorkers are eligible for the vaccine, but our weekly allocation of doses from the federal government was cut without any explanation. We are encouraged by the new administration's announcement that we will get 16 percent greater allocation, and we hope to continue to receive more doses and guidance on this issue."