After a sluggish start to COVID-19 vaccinations in New York City, the state has agreed to allow five more groups of people to get the vaccine starting Monday, with 22 administration sites now available in Brooklyn.

In the first phase of the rollout, only healthcare workers were allowed to get the vaccine. 

But on Friday, under increasing pressure to relieve a backlog of more than 300,000 unused coronavirus vaccine doses, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo expanded the eligibility groups to include three million more people. 

The newly eligible groups are people ages 75 and older, teachers and education workers, first responders, public safety workers and public transit workers. Healthcare workers will still take priority. Click here to find a vaccination site near you.

On Sunday, the city also opened a 24/7 mass vaccination site at Brooklyn Army Terminal in Sunset Park. Health officials hope to vaccinate up to 2,000 Brooklynites a day at the location, and another 2,000 at a Bronx location. A smaller vaccine hub also opened Sunday at Bushwick Educational Campus.

New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Dave. A. Chokshi said the hubs would be a route to immunity for thousands of New Yorkers. “We need more New Yorkers to be eligible for the vaccine in order to quicken the pace of vaccination for the entire city.”

Those getting their first shot will receive a vaccination card as well as an appointment for the second dose, which is crucial for full protection from the virus for the two vaccines authorized in the U.S. made by Pfizer and Moderna.

As of Monday, 194,501 New Yorkers had received their first dose of the vaccine, and 18,295 had received the second dose. This was less than half of the total 524,425 doses delivered to the state a month ago today.

The slow rollout received criticism from city officials like Comptroller Scott M. Stringer, who said lives and livelihoods were at stake due to the bottlenecks and delays.

“New Yorkers deserve a vaccine rollout that is fast, transparent, and equitable. We have had months to prepare for the rollout. New York City must lead the nation in the vaccination effort — there’s no excuse for delay,” he said.

NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer. Photo: citylandnyc.org

He said the city should also develop a database to help hospitals and health care providers track demand and usage and potentially redistribute doses, and double down on outreach to New Yorkers.

The governor was originally sticking closely to guidelines prioritizing healthcare workers and those in nursing homes. But after intense pressure from city officials like Stringer and Mayor Bill de Blasio, he opened the eligibility.

After vaccine eligibility was expanded, Stringer tweeted that the tool to make an appointment for a vaccine was difficult to use. Smoothing out these issues would be crucial to speeding up the vaccination process.

Cuomo estimated that it could take into April to finish vaccinations for the current groups, which total about five million New Yorkers.

The next phase starting February will include other frontline essential workers and other at-risk groups (to be determined by New York State). From March to April, the city expects to vaccinate people aged 65 to 74, those with certain underlying health conditions and all other essential workers. The vaccination of all other people will likely begin in summer 2021.

Looking forward, the Pharmacists Society of the State of New York said independent pharmacies would be essential in administering the vaccine, as they reach low-income Black and Brown communities, often with a personal touch.

There are currently no pharmacies offering the vaccine in Brooklyn.

Pharmacists Society of the State of New York President Thomas D’Angelo said pharmacies are a cornerstone of the community and a trusted voice as people question the safety of the vaccine.

“The people in there speak the language of that neighborhood, the have a rapport with the patients, pharmacies are the most accessible healthcare provider for people to seek out.

“People are sceptical at the moment and if they go in and the pharmacist says, you know it’s OK, I took it, or my staff took it, it will go a long way.”

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Jessy Edwards

Jessy Edwards is a freelance writer based in Bushwick. Originally from New Zealand, she has written for the BBC, Rolling Stone, NBC New York, CNBC and her hometown newspaper, The Dominion Post, among others.

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  1. My husband had his first vaccination and now hes trying to find where he can get the second dose. Walgreens did the first but when I try online to make his next appointment they are currently out of the vaccines, what should he do?

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