New York Expands Vaccine Eligibility to All 60+, Will Drastically Increase Your Choices of ‘Where'

Any of the state's 5,000-plus non-pharmacy providers can start administering doses to any eligible New Yorker as of March 17, the same day public-facing government and nonprofit workers and essential building services workers will earn eligibility

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What to Know

  • The number of completed vaccinations continues to rise in the tri-state with more than 3 million across New York, New Jersey and Connecticut receiving their full doses of the vaccine
  • NY vaccine eligibility is expanding to people 60+ this week, and next week any site (except pharmacies) will be able to vaccinate any eligible recipient
  • In New Jersey, health officials report people are canceling existing vaccine appointments because they prefer the single-dose regimen; that's fine, but those people will have to start at the end of the line

New York state is expanding vaccine eligibility to any resident age 60 and older starting Wednesday, and eligible recipients will be able to get a shot at any of the thousands of vaccine hubs, except for pharmacies, a week later, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday.

Pharmacies will be permitted to vaccinate anyone in the newly eligible group (the age 60 and older) and teachers, in accordance with federal guidance, starting Wednesday as well, Cuomo said. Any of the state's 5,000-plus non-pharmacy providers can start administering doses to any eligible New Yorker as of March 17, the same day public-facing government and nonprofit workers and public-facing essential building services workers will be added to the eligibility pool.

The latter group includes the "everyday heroes who have been showing up day in and day out throughout this pandemic," Cuomo said, like social service and child service caseworkers, sanitation and DMV workers, county clerks, building service and election workers, public works employees and government inspectors.

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

More than 12 million New Yorkers are already eligible for vaccination, including the recently made eligible hotel and food industry workers. The looming expansions will likely add millions more to the millions still in line. Knowing that, providers are still being encouraged to prioritize vaccinations for the most at-risk New Yorkers, including older people and those with qualifying health conditions.

"Supply is steadily increasing and we're opening new vaccination sites and expanding eligibility to match it," Cuomo said in making the announcement Tuesday. "The fight against the COVID beast continues on all fronts, and we're pushing the infection rate down while getting our vaccinations up."

As of Tuesday, more than 3.8 million people in New York had gotten at least one dose, less than a third of the eligible vaccine population and about 19.4 percent of the state's total population. More than 9 percent of New York state's population has been fully vaccinated, a boost in the last few weeks alone but one still well short of Cuomo's stated 75 percent "low" threshold to achieve herd immunity.

The governor said that New York performed the best in the country in regards to vaccinations over the weekend, with more than 13,000 receiving a dose each day. Additionally, more than 120,000 people got the shot across the state over the past 24 hours.

In the city, about 17 percent of the population has gotten one dose so far, while 8 percent has had both, according to the state's latest data. The city remains on pace to hit or exceed Mayor Bill de Blasio's 5 million vaccination goal by June.

A second site open exclusively for MTA workers to get the vaccine opened in Grand Central Terminal Tuesday. The agency said 200 employees will be able to get the shot there every day.

To ensure enough people to support the vaccination effort as eligibility and supply increase, de Blasio announced Tuesday the establishment of the Vaccine for All Corps, a civilian corps that will be used to recruit 2,000 New Yorkers to serve their communities on the vaccine front. They will focus on residents in 33 high-priority access neighborhoods. The Corps is currently hiring for clinical roles, including vaccinators, as well as support and administrative positions. Training will be handled by the health department. Anyone interested can learn more here.

Local and county officials statewide, including de Blasio, have pushed the governor for weeks to lift restrictions on which New Yorkers can get vaccinated and where. Officials applauded Cuomo’s move but also called for more transparency on exactly where vaccines are going.

“But to get our vaccination effort running at maximum speed, there’s still so much more that we need,” de Blasio said in a statement. “We also need more local control. That means being able to tell our sites and providers the number of doses they’ll get each week, every week, so they can plan ahead to conduct outreach and schedule appointments.”

Not sure how the process works? Check out our handy tri-state vaccine site finder and FAQs here

Across the river, New Jersey has doubled-dosed nearly 870,000 people, about 10 percent of its population. It took the state roughly 55 days to hit the first million total doses, but just three weeks to move from that benchmark to the 2 million- milestone, Gov. Phil Murphy said. Nearly a quarter of Connecticut's population has received at least one dose so far; about 10 percent are fully vaccinated.

Both New Jersey and Connecticut have recently expanded their vaccine pools as well, with Jersey starting to vaccinate teachers and childcare workers Saturday, a week earlier than planned at the behest of President Joe Biden. In the city, de Blasio has repeated his "freedom to vaccinate" mantra at nearly every opportunity, saying the city has the distribution network to vaccinate a half-million or more people a week. Supply thus far has been the single biggest limiting factor.

One in 13 residents in Co-op City, where the new vaccine hub will open Thursday, and nearby areas have been infected with the virus but vaccine distribution in the area has been lackluster compared to city and statewide data. NBC New York's Gaby Acevedo reports.

That has changed in recent weeks, though. The rollout continues to accelerate at an ever-increasing pace, boosted by the introduction of a third vaccine and increased weekly allocation to states from the federal government. The number of completed vaccinations across the tri-state area topped 3 million Sunday, a significant feat for a region particularly devastated in the early days of the pandemic and incalculably wounded by persisting economic and human losses.

The mission has grown increasingly urgent, as COVID-19 cases and positivity rates in New York and the nation overall appear to have leveled off following a rapid descent from post-holiday highs earlier this year. Local officials have expressed some wariness over the height of the plateau, as the head of the CDC recently shared similar worry on her part as it applies to the national level.

Unknowns around the coronavirus variants have fueled some of the anxiety on both national and local scales. New York City has been tracking the three main "variants of interest" currently being analyzed at the national scale -- the U.K., South African and Brazilian strains. The health department has also begun a scientific assessment of the so-called "New York City variant," which is thought to have originated in Washington Heights last year before it spread elsewhere.

With new, more contagious variants of the coronavirus circulating, health experts are adjusting their recommendations for face masks. NBC News medical correspondent Dr. John Torres joined LX News to explain why you should make sure your face mask is well-fitted and double up.

Though two unpublished studies about that New York City variant made headlines in recent weeks, city health officials warned the strain could simply be a different strain and advised the public to rely too much on data only produced in a lab.

The city says it hopes to share its initial findings on the variant, also known as the B.1.526 variant, by the end of the week. Specifically, health officials have been looking into whether this strain is more contagious and whether it changes the nature of the illness caused by the virus. Those variables are key in assessing whether a variant poses any extra public health threat and shape the concern.

The U.K. strain remains the most prevalent "variant of interest" in the United States; the CDC had confirmed more than 3,283 such cases across 49 states as of its latest report Tuesday night.

The mayor's office urged the city to stay calm regarding a possible new variant found in the city, telling people to continue doing what they are already doing to stop the spread of the virus. That comes as the city says it has enough vaccine dosages to start adding appointments. NBC New York's Andrew Siff reports.

New York state accounts for at least 154 of those cases, at least 116 of them in the city, according to the city's latest data. New Jersey's count is up to 134, while Connecticut has reported 81 U.K. variant cases to date. Both New York and Connecticut have detected the less common South African variant -- two cases in Nassau County, two in New York City and at least one in a Fairfield County resident.

Nationally, just 91 South African variant cases have been found in 21 states, according to the latest from the CDC.

Far more rare is the Brazilian variant. Only 15 cases of that strain have been reported in positive U.S. samples in nine states. New Jersey is one of them, reporting two Brazilian variant cases in Hudson County but no other details.

Ultimately, tri-state health officials seek to make clear two key points around the variants: First, not all variants are of public health concern. Most are just that -- variants. Some are of "interest," like the U.K., South African and Brazilian ones.

Second: Vaccines are expected to work on the variants that have emerged and those that will over time. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine raised some eyebrows among Americans eligible to be vaccinated when they saw that that single-dose shot was less effective overall in clinical trials than Moderna or Pfizer vaccines.

New York City experts say that's because those trials were conducted in some countries where "variants of interest" have become more prevalent, while other manufacturers' trials came too early to account for the developments in scientific analysis around variants. Echoing comments from national disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, city health officials say New Yorkers should take whatever vaccine is available to them when it's their turn. All provide key virus protection.

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


De Blasio has said he will personally take the Johnson & Johnson shot to underscore the point. Thanks to the infusion of J&J shots being given out overnight, the Javits Center in Manhattan said it is now administering more than 11,400 vaccines a day. New Jersey's health commissioner, said a number of people have canceled existing vaccine appointments, citing their preference for one manufacturer over the others (mainly, they prefer the single-dose regimen J&J offers to the two-dose one). While they are entitled to do that, those people will have to get back at the end of the line and wait their turn for a different shot.

Full vaccination comes with more freedoms as well, under the latest CDC guidance. The agency released new recommendations Monday for people who have been fully vaccinated, including scenarios where it would be OK to gather indoors without masks. A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after getting the last required dose of the vaccine regimen, whichever it happens to be.

Locally, health officials and political leaders still recommend all tri-state residents wear masks for now -- part of a larger effort to encourage continued use of COVID precautions and not to be placated by a "the vaccine is here, coronavirus is over" mindset this early in the rollout. Many have said the U.S. won't return to any semblance of normalcy until herd immunity is achieved. There's a way to go yet.

Less than two weeks ago, a CDC scientist said the country is "nowhere close" to that oft-spoken about yet seemingly still lofty goal.

It was only less than a month ago that New York City officials changed their guidance to encourage "double-masking" based on findings from a CDC study that showed that approach can severely reduce risk of COVID exposure. Amid concern over the variants, they say the core COVID protections that proved to curb the spread earlier in the pandemic are as important to continue now as ever.

New Jersey health officials indicated the same when asked about the latest CDC guidance and any potential state changes that may come from it earlier this week.

Data has shown the people who meet the standard for obesity are at greater risk for severe complications from COVID-19. As a result, some states are using BMI, or body mass index, to qualify people for early access to a vaccine. NBC News medical correspondent Dr. John Torres joined LX News to discuss how BMI helps to calculate your risk — and where it falls short.

"It's not just from vaccination alone. We're nowhere near the vaccination coverage we'd like," state epidemiologist Dr. Christina Tan said. "That's why we need to continue the masking, social distancing, all those interventions on top of the vaccinations to keep us on track with this success of stemming COVID."

The World Health Organization issued a similar, albeit starker, reminder Monday, days after warning new COVID-19 cases were increasing globally after six straight weeks of declines. More than 2.6 million new cases were reported in the last week of February, up 7 percent from the week before, the health agency said.

"We're at a very risky period," WHO's chief scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, said. "We need to double down, this is not the period to let up."

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