NEW YORK – New York City will launch a campaign to vaccinate one million residents against the coronavirus in January, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday.
The city, like much of the country, has slowly started distributing the vaccine, with 88,000 people vaccinated since the vaccines began on December 14. She will have to pick up the pace considerably to reach Blasio’s goal.
“This city can do it,” the mayor said. “The incredible health professionals in this city are ready. We will be setting up new sites across the city, in addition to the many sites already operational.”
The city plans to have 250 sites administering 300,000 vaccines per week by the end of January.
“We are far from where we need to be,” said de Blasio. “We need to switch to overdrive now.”
New York will launch new public vaccination centers in school gyms and other places from mid-month, providing 45,000 injections per week, said Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi. Some of the city’s existing coronavirus testing sites will start offering the vaccine, adding another 4,000 per week.
And the city will send nurses and pharmacists to work in vaccination clinics run by community organizations and clinics, for about 100,000 injections per week. Hospital systems and other providers currently have the capacity to perform 150,000 vaccinations per week.
If the target is met, the city – the hardest hit in the country – will give the first dose of the vaccine to around 12% of its population in January. Continuing at the same rate, it would take until September to vaccinate all New Yorkers, although the numbers vary depending on the number of people who choose to be vaccinated.
And officials have acknowledged they could miss the target if they don’t receive enough doses of the vaccine from the federal government or state advice on who is eligible.
“Each person we touch brings us even closer to healing,” said de Blasio.
The city has around one million people in the priority group for vaccines – healthcare workers and residents and nursing home staff. These groups will likely be the focus of the January vaccination campaign, but other groups could become eligible since not all of these workers will volunteer to take the vaccine.
New municipal vaccination sites will follow state rules about who can get vaccinated. So far, only hospital workers and residents and staff of nursing homes are allowed. Health care providers in private practice and at local clinics will be eligible from next week, Chokshi said. The city is still awaiting authorization from other health workers, such as home helpers.
“In order for us to be able to act quickly, as is our intention, we also need to be able to quickly expand the circle of eligibility,” he said. “We want these categories to be developed as quickly as possible.”
Other details have yet to be determined, including whether vaccines will be by appointment or on a first come, first served basis, and how people will need to prove their eligibility.
In 1947, New York City vaccinated more than six million people against smallpox in one month.
De Blasio also announced that the city will observe March 14, 2021 as a day of remembrance for New Yorkers who have died from Covid-19. The figure is 25,144 and it counts. March 14 is the first anniversary of the first reported death from the disease.
“We need to remember those we lost. And we have to be there for their families every day, ”said de Blasio. “We have to recognize that 25,000 of our fellow New Yorkers have left.”