New York's two largest vaccination sites to date, opened in Brooklyn and Queens on Wednesday, have expanded appointment eligibility to their entire boroughs after targeting residents of hard-hit ZIP codes with low vaccination rates in the first week of operation.
Both vaccination sites, run jointly by FEMA and the state, have the capacity to administer 3,000 shots per day. The sites at Brooklyn's Medgar Evers College and Queens' York College operate seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The National Guard will assist with operations as well.
Eligible New Yorkers can schedule appointments for the Brooklyn and Queens sites via the state's 'Am I Eligible' website or by calling its COVID-19 Vaccination Hotline at 1-833-NYS-4-VAX (1-833-697-4829).
The two boroughs are the third and fifth deadliest COVID counties in America, respectively, according to Johns Hopkins University data. They long topped the charts earlier in the pandemic when New York City was the epicenter of the national crisis, before being surpassed by counties in California and Arizona.
Both sites have the capacity to each inoculate up to 3,000 people a day for at least an initial eight-week period. They receive a special allocation of federal vaccine doses to ensure continued supply as states continue to face lower-than-desired supply in what New York officials describe as a race against time and more contagious variants — including a new one that some studies suggest may already be spreading in New York City.
The state said Friday a second mass vaccination site should be added in the northern Bronx to supply the Yankee Stadium site it runs jointly with the city. The borough has the highest positivity rate in the city.
Another 12 community-based pop-up vaccination sites came online at community centers, public housing complexes and cultural centers across the state this week as well. After the initial round of shots, the pop-up sites will be re-established in three weeks to administer second doses, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said.
Most localities have used some of the increased supply to start vaccinating essential personnel such as fire, police — and teachers, a group that Cuomo said the state will start tracking vaccination numbers for weekly. He said it's a part of President Joe Biden's push to open schools, and will also involve figuring out how many teachers are doing in-class learning, as many educators are concerned about going back to the classroom without a vaccine.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo toured the Medgar Evers site earlier this week and visited the York College on Wednesday as it opened. He said the site will "is gonna save lives," and Mayor Bill de Blasio didn't seemed concerned that hundreds of appointments were still available.
"Every time vaccinations have been available they get snapped up. I don't believe there will be lack of demand," the mayor said.
In an effort to make access to the new sites easier for these so-called "socially vulnerable" communities, Cuomo said the MTA will enhance bus service from NYCHA and community centers to the new state-FEMA sites as part of a pilot program. That service starts Monday; it will ferry people from Queens' Edgemere Houses and Brooklyn's Pink Houses to the vaccination sites from 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. New bus stops will be added near the vaccination site at York College (see full details on those new routes and times here).
Four more sites under the federal program will open upstate March 3 in Buffalo, Yonkers, Rochester and Albany. Those will each vaccinate 1,000 people a day. Appointment scheduling for those sites opened Wednesday. Like the ones in the city, appointments the first week are reserved for New Yorkers in areas with low vaccination rates. Then they open up to eligible people in the respective counties.
To further supplement the equity effort, the state is partnering with faith leaders in Brooklyn and Queens for a vaccination drive encouraging people to sign up. New York has also established more than 90 community-based pop-up vaccination sites at churches, community centers and public housing complexes statewide. It intends to establish pop-up sites at all 33 NYCHA developments.
More than 10 million people are currently eligible for vaccination in New York alone, a number that far exceeds the supply coming from the federal government.