Feds, state to open 4 upstate vax sites

Bloomberg photo by Eric LeeA pharmacist draws a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech covid-19 vaccine at the Brooklyn Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare nursing home in the Brooklyn borough of New York on Jan. 5.

ALBANY — About 1,000 COVID-19 vaccines will be distributed per day at four upstate federal mass sites set to open in the coming weeks, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday, including in Western New York, the Capital Region and the Finger Lakes.

Members of the state Coronavirus Task Force will work with Federal Emergency Management Agency to open joint vaccination sites at the Delavan Grider Community Center in Buffalo, Erie County; the former Kodak Hawkeye parking lot in Rochester; the Washington Avenue Armory in Albany; and the New York National Guard Armory in Yonkers, Westchester County, to open March 3.

“They get an allocation from the federal government, they’re jointly run between the state and the federal government,” Gov. Cuomo said Wednesday during a telephoned COVID-19 briefing with reporters.

The sites are under development with assistance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Defense and other federal agencies.

The federal government will provide a separate vaccine supply for the joint sites outside New York’s scheduled rough allocation of 315,000 doses weekly.

“The Washington Avenue Armory is proud to be part of this historic effort to vaccinate New York State from COVID-19,” Armory representatives said in a prepared statement Wednesday. “With our legacy as a former New York National Guard armory, the Armory is ready to serve the Empire State in its time of need. The Armory’s location right in Downtown Albany is accessible by public transit and walkable from many of Albany’s neighborhoods, making for an ideal central location for socially vulnerable communities as noted by Gov. Cuomo.”

The four additional state and federal locations are in addition to two mass vaccination sites at York College in Jamaica, Queens, and Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn set to open next week. About 3,000 New Yorkers will be vaccinated at the downstate sites each day.

Appointments at the new sites will be initially reserved for members of the immediate community. Additional scheduling information about opening dates and hours of operation will be announced in the coming days, according to the governor’s office.

The joint-run sites — staffed by federal, state and local officials and the National Guard — will help vaccinate minority, low-income and other socially vulnerable communities.

Minority groups are less likely to accept receiving a coronavirus vaccine when eligible because of traditional disparities in health care, correlating health education and a heightened distrust of the government.

“Part of it is access, part of it is hesitancy,” Cuomo said. “We have to work harder in those areas to get those numbers up.”

Coronavirus infections plagued Black and Hispanic communities three times as much as the rate for white Americans. African-Americans died from COVID-19 at 2.5 times, and Latinos at 1.5 times, the rate of whites.

Additionally, the state will open 13 community-based pop-up vaccine sites at community centers, public housing complexes and cultural centers. The state runs 91 temporary vaccine locations to date.

A site will open at the Schenectady City Mission in the Capital Region, Native American Community Services center in Buffalo and the Trenton and Pamela Jackson Center in Rochester in the Finger Lakes region. Five sites are slated for New York City, two in the Hudson Valley and one each in Long Island, Central New York and the Southern Tier.

“I want to thank President for that and the coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients — this is a very big and aggressive effort to address vaccine hesitancy in the Black community, and I thank them very much for that,” Cuomo said.

The sites are slated to vaccinate 3,850 people this week. Vaccinations are by appointment only, and are already filled in the Hudson Valley, Capital Region and Western New York.

The state reports at lest 2,068,561 New Yorkers have received at least one of two required doses of the COVID-19 vaccine as of Wednesday. About 91% of the state’s COVID-19 vaccine supply delivered in the first nine weeks, or since Dec. 14, was administered to New Yorkers.

Doses for the 10th week have started to arrive in federal shipments, according to the governor’s office.

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