NEW YORK — Two mass COVID-19 vaccination sites opened in New York City on Sunday as New York prepared to widen vaccine eligibility to people over 75 and frontline workers including teachers and police officers.
The vaccination sites that opened in Brooklyn and the Bronx will operate by appointment 24 hours a day starting Monday. Mayor Bill de Blasio, who toured the vaccine hub at Bathgate Industrial Park in the Bronx, has vowed to set up a total of 250 city-run vaccination sites by the end of January with the goal of administering 1 million vaccine doses this month.
Vaccine eligibility in New York was initially limited to health care workers and residents and staffers at nursing homes, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that people over 75 years old as well as frontline workers including teachers, firefighters, police officers and transit workers would be able to schedule vaccinations starting Monday.
The Democratic governor's announcement represented a change in course after he insisted earlier that the state would only expand eligibility once it had enough doses to vaccinate all willing health care workers.
Michael Mulgrew, the president of the United Federation of Teachers, which represents teachers and some other staff members at New York City public schools, said the union will survey its members to see who wants a vaccine now and coordinate with health care systems to ensure that its members can be inoculated as soon as possible.
"Thousands of vaccine doses sit idle, or are even wasted, as the current system leaves health care providers waiting and hoping for eligible recipients to show up," Mulgrew said. "We are creating a pool of members who opt in, who want the vaccine, and then will match them to providers who have vaccines available."
Cuomo said Friday that the state is now receiving about 300,000 vaccine doses a week, which means it will take until mid-April to get everyone eligible vaccinated unless the federal government increases the supply. "Our distribution network will far outpace our supply," he said.