New York City and state officials are looking to ramp up coronavirus vaccine distribution after a lackluster start that many have criticized as moving too slowly. So far, the city has administered just 110,241 of the 443,000 doses it has received.
New York City and state officials are looking to ramp up coronavirus vaccine distribution after a lackluster start that many have criticized as moving too slowly.
In the three weeks since the launch of New York’s vaccine program, the city has so far administered just 110,241 of the 443,000 doses it has received, according to the city’s Vaccine Tracker. The highest number of doses in a single day—just under 14,000—was doled out on Dec. 23, while other dates were much less prolific. On Christmas Day, for example, the city administered just 180 vaccine doses, and just 135 were given out on New Year’s Day.
The uneven rollout has drawn criticism from some public leaders, particularly as new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to rise across New York.
“Vaccination in New York City is basically only occurring during regular business hours. Very little on weekends. Almost none on holidays,” City Councilman Mark Levine tweeted Sunday. “We are in a war-like situation. We need to be vaccinating TWENTY FOUR-SEVEN. We are losing precious time.”
During a press briefing Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio promised “an intensive speed up” of the city’s vaccine distribution efforts, saying doing so successfully will require “cooperation of all levels of government” including a steady supply of vaccines from the federal government, and for the state to expand the vaccine eligibility requirements to include more groups.
New York is currently in phase 1A of its vaccine rollout plan, which initially prioritized frontline health care workers and those who work and live in nursing homes; On Monday, the eligibility criteria was expanded to include other essential workers, like those who work in outpatient and ambulatory care settings, dentists, funeral workers and urgent care employees.
The mayor blamed the slow pace of vaccinations so far to the “huge number of logistical challenges” involved in distribution, including the need for vaccine doses to be kept refrigerated.
“We understand that in the first few weeks there was tremendous caution and care about making sure people understood how to use the vaccine, refrigerator issues—there was a lot of care to make sure things were done right and safely,” he said.
The city is planning to expand its number of vaccine distribution sites in the coming weeks to speed up the process, from the current 125 locations to at least 250 by the end of January. This will include pop-up sites as well as three new “vaccine hubs” to open this Sunday at schools in the Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx.
“By the time we get to the end of the month I expect us to be at a clip of 400,000 vaccinations a week,” the mayor told reporters Monday. He’d previously set a goal for the city to dole out 1 million doses by January’s end.
The City Council is planning to hold a hearing on Jan. 12 to examine the city’s vaccine rollout so far, Council Speaker Corey Johnson tweeted Monday.
On the state level, nearly 275,000 New Yorkers have gotten the vaccine so far, according to the data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that distribution is not going as fast as it should: A federal program to administer vaccines in nursing homes has so far reached fewer than half of the 611 state facilities enrolled in it, he said.
“That has not been going as quickly as we’d like,” Cuomo said, saying the state is now planning to intervene, and will “supplement and expedite” the federal program by sending in additional staff, with the goal of reaching all of the state’s nursing homes over the next two weeks.
The governor also announced new penalties Monday for hospitals that fail to quickly distribute their vaccine allocations, citing slow rollout at a number of facilities. Statewide, New York hospitals have collectively administered just 46 percent of the vaccine doses they’ve been allocated so far; the city’s Health + Hospitals system has distributed just 31 percent of its allocated doses, according to the governor.
Under the new rules, facilities will be required to use all of their vaccine doses within seven days of receiving them, and must administer their current vaccine inventory by the end of the week or face a fine of up to $100,000. Hospitals that fail to do so can also be disqualified from receiving future doses, according to the governor.
“We want those vaccines in people’s arms,” Cuomo said.