What to Know
- New York extends vaccine eligibility universally to those age 16 and older on Tuesday and warns the latest crush will likely cause some frustration to those trying to schedule appointments for the first time
- Connecticut made that universal push last week, while New Jersey's governor has announced he'll open access to those 16 and older in less than two weeks, on April 19
- More than 21 percent of New Yorkers are now fully vaccinated against COVID, though officials urge continued cautionas core viral metrics remain at quadruple the levels they were in early November
All New Yorkers age 16 and older are eligible to sign up for COVID-19 vaccinations as of 8 a.m. Tuesday, marking the state's last big expansion and one that comes weeks ahead of President Joe Biden's deadline for a universal rollout nationally.
New Jersey's governor has announced he'll open eligibility similarly in less than two weeks, while Connecticut made the move a few days ahead of New York.
If previous expansions in the Big Apple have been any indication, those newly eligible Tuesday will likely encounter a series of infuriating headaches around scheduling. Technical errors, confusion and rapidly vanishing appointments have plagued hundreds of thousands -- if not millions -- each time the pool expanded.
Some within this latest eligibility group might experience additional complications. Only the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is federally approved for 16- and 17-year-olds, which narrows the options for the youngest looking to schedule shots. Both the state and city do list vaccine manufacturer by site location on their respective health websites (see the state one here and the city one here).
Not sure how the process works? Check out our handy tri-state vaccine site finder and FAQs here
New York City and New Jersey Vaccine Providers
Click on each provider to find more information on scheduling appointments for the COVID-19 Vaccine.
Data: City of New York, State of New Jersey • Nina Lin / NBC
Parental consent is required for vaccinations of minors with rare exceptions, including for teens who are married or are parents. None of the available vaccines have yet been approved for people under 16, but Pfizer announced last week that its late-stage trial shows its vaccine is highly effective in kids as young as 12.
New York City has more than 500 vaccine providers across the five boroughs. There's no centralized system where one can input one's required health information and move on. Some providers require more information than others. Attempts to schedule appointments with any of them essentially require vaccine-seekers to reinput their health information from the start each time.
Those who try to schedule appointments for the first time Tuesday will likely see a series of red "NO FIRST DOSE APPOINTMENTS AVAILABLE" messages regarding most city locations or "No Appointments Available Currently" at state ones within a reasonable distance of their homes. It's not worth it to try and click on the link anyway in hopes of getting an appointment. In most cases, it's difficult to catch one even if first-dose appointments are available. They disappear that quickly.
"We put these appointments up last week, they got snapped up – over half a million," Mayor Bill de Blasio warned Monday. "More and more people getting vaccinated is making it easier for yet more beyond to be vaccinated because that word of mouth – we've been saying now for months – has proven to be true."
To expedite access for the most vulnerable, the city is expanding its walk-up appointment pilot. That program, which allows New Yorkers age 75 and older to get vaccinated with an eligible escort of any age, will be available at 25 city-run sites this week, up from the previous three, de Blasio said Tuesday. The additional 22 sites that will participate in the program weren't immediately identified.
Right now, only the oldest New Yorkers have that option. For others, a new element on the state sign-up page threatened more frustration Tuesday. A new virtual waitlist appeared and put users on hold, tied to a single vaccine site for some period of time -- anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes or so -- before transitioning to a page with three simple words: No Appointments Available.
Some residents have tried to take matters into their own hands, turning to tech-savvy people who created their own vaccine finders to make it easier to notify the public when new appointment slots become available at city- or state-run sites.
Websites and social media accounts like turbovax.info, nycvaccinelist.com and NY Covid Vaccine Bot, @nysvaccine and @LongIslandVax have been popular sources. There are also many volunteer-run groups across the city to help people sign up. But even the ones behind those efforts encounter some challenges.
"The first day or two of a new eligibility group are always crazy but it typically gets easier if you can afford to wait a couple days," TurboxVax advised.
Statewide, about 5,000 providers can administer vaccinations. All providers can dose any eligible New Yorker except retail pharmacies, which are limited to serving people age 60 and older, those with underlying conditions and teachers at this point. With millions of New Yorkers falling within that pharmacy realm, those have become the most convenient vaccine path for many (here's how it works.)
The new universal vaccine expansion has added 1.7 million people to the list of eligible New Yorkers for a total of 15.9 million individuals, state Health Department officials said. For now, the demand of millions still outweighs the number of weekly vaccine allocation, but New York City Health Commission Dr. Dave Chokshi says the reverse could be true come May.
He and the rest of the city's leadership team advise New Yorkers to take the first vaccine brand available to them. Chokshi, who battled COVID-19 himself earlier this year, and the mayor got Johnson & Johnson's single-dose regimen last month, while Dr. Jay Varma, the mayor's senior public health adviser, had the Moderna shot and Dr. Mitchell Katz, president and CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals received Pfizer's vaccine to underscore the point: They are all effective, especially when it comes to preventing serious illness or death from coronavirus.
More than one in five New York residents -- about 21.2 percent of the state population -- is now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the latest data shows. More than 6.7 million New Yorkers -- 33.8 percent of the population -- have had at least one dose. In the city, 19 percent of the populace is fully vaccinated.
COVID-19 Vaccination in Your State and County
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports daily numbers on the percent of people fully vaccinated based on a person's county of residence.
Source: The The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Note: The CDC did not release any information for Texas, Hawaii, New Mexico and some counties.
The race to vaccinate has taken on heightened urgency over the last two months as more contagious variants become increasingly prevalent locally and nationally. Genomic sequencing of a subset of virus specimens taken from New York City residents during the week starting March 15 found about 26 percent of the samples were the B.1.1.7 strain, the variant first identified in the U.K. last year.
That and the city's own B.1.526 variant, one thought to have originated in Washington Heights last year before spreading to other boroughs, now account for well more than half of the city's current case total, officials say.
According to Varma, though, there has been no worsening in outcome associated with the variants -- a fact he credits to the accelerated vaccination rollout.
"Under normal conditions, without a vaccine, that would have led to another wave, a third wave," Varma said of the variant surge. "And because of the incredible work that New Yorkers had done coming out to get vaccinated, we've been able to hold our levels at a level that we don't like to be at but you have to remember what it could be like if we didn't have those vaccines."
Daily Percentage of Positive Tests by New York Region
Gov. Andrew Cuomo breaks the state into 10 regions for testing purposes and tracks positivity rates to identify potential hotspots. Here's the latest tracking data by region and for the five boroughs. For the latest county-level results statewide, click here
The U.K. variant has now been detected in more than 15,500 samples across all 52 U.S. jurisdictions, according to the CDC. The South African (B.1.351) and Brazilian (P.1) variants remain less prevalent, accounting for about 374 cases in 33 states and 289 cases in 25 states, respectively, but their presence has magnified considerably in the last two months alone, data shows.
Top health officials at all levels of government caution the United States' footing in the ongoing COVID war is still precarious and will likely stay that way at least through May.
New daily case totals for the city and state have leveled off well below their January peaks, but remain at triple the levels they were in early November. Statewide hospitalizations have fallen below 4,500 but are still quadruple what the state was reporting in early November, while the number of daily deaths remains at double the number they were at that time as well.
That said, hospitalizations among those older than 65 are falling locally and nationally as the vaccination rollout intensifies. More than half of Americans 65 and older are fully vaccinated, and emergency department visits and hospitalizations associated with that age group are falling, the CDC says.
Tracking Coronavirus in Tri-State
Early data suggests that existing vaccines do work against the variants overall, but could be less effective against some of them over time. That's why health officials and high-ranking national officials up to the president urge Americans to keep their guards up: Wear masks, social distance and wash hands, they say.
A recent CDC study found just a single dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines to be 80 percent effective in preventing infection, though the nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, says people shouldn't stop at one dose.
"When you look at the level of protection after one dose, you can say it's 80%, but it is somewhat of a tenuous 80%," Fauci said during a White House news briefing Monday. "When you leave it at one dose, the question is how long does it last?"
It's still unclear how long protection lasts for those who are vaccinated, the CDC says, though new research suggests Moderna's vaccine protection lasts at least six months. It takes about two weeks after the final shot to build immunity.
Nationally, nearly 42 percent of U.S. adults age 18 and older have received at least one vaccine dose, while 24.4 percent are fully inoculated, according to the latest CDC data. Biden initially had set a May 1 deadline for all U.S. adults to be eligible for vaccination but moved that timeline up Tuesday to April 19.
All U.S. states except Hawaii and Oregon had already pledged full eligibility by April 19 ahead of Biden's anticipated announcement.