Although New York’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout has gotten off to a slow start, the city Department of Health is working to open hundreds of vaccination sites that will be able to inoculate thousands of New Yorkers per day once more people are eligible to receive their first shot. On Saturday, DOH Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi walked reporters through the South Bronx Educational Campus in Melrose, which opens on Sunday to immunize eligible New Yorkers who fall in the 1A category, which is limited to healthcare employees. Two other vaccination clinics, Bushwick Education Campus in Brooklyn and Hillcrest High School in Queens, are opening on Sunday, adding to the 125 hubs currently in operation. With each of the three sites operating from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day, roughly 5,000 to 7,000 people will be administered the vaccine daily, according to Dr. Chokshi. That averages out to about three vaccinations per minute per site at full ramp up. For those who are homebound, DOH is considering making home visits, Dr. Chokshi said. A total of 250 vaccine sites are expected to be open by the end of January, the same time Mayor Bill de Blasio hopes 1 million doses will have been administered as part of a lofty goal to accelerate vaccine distribution. The opening of the sites coincides with two of five 24/7 mass vaccination sites set to open Sunday, including one at Bathgate Industrial Park in the Bronx. Three new #COVID19 Vaccine Hubs will open tomorrow in the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn! Twelve additional Hubs will open next week across the five boroughs, adding to the nearly 125 sites that are currently up and running for eligible New Yorkers citywide: Healthcare workers, including non-medical personnel, in the 1A category have already begun receiving the vaccine at the hospitals where they work, though approximately half of the staff at city hospitals have been reluctant to take it. So far 203,181 of 524,425 state-issued vaccinations have been administered in the city as of Saturday, with 15,185 people having already received the second of the two-dose shot, according to city health statistics. Dr. Chokshi said the locations of the three new sites were chosen as part of the effort to provide equal access to the vaccine, particularly in communities of color, such as the Bronx. The Bronx has been especially pulverized by the virus, with parts of the borough currently seeing double-digit COVID-19 positivity rates, prolonging an economic recovery and sense of normalcy. “Equity is a foundational pillar of how we think about turning vaccines into vaccinations,” Dr. Chokshi told reporters as he walked them through the process of obtaining the shot. “We do know that there are greater rates of vaccine hesitancy in certain communities, particularly communities of color in New York City. And what we have to do as the city, and what we’re committed to doing is communicating the best science-based information ourselves.” The vaccination process at these sites is being streamlined to ensure the city jabs as many arms as possible. Those who’ve set up an appointment through the city’s vaccination registration website will be required to arrive at their chosen site promptly. Walk-ins will not be accepted. Each site will operate as a kind of assembly line, starting with a DOH worker checking in people who’ve made a reservation to get the shot, verifying their identity through a valid ID card or QR code they received through the website. Along with being registered, those receiving the shot will immediately have an appointment for the second dose in the following weeks. At the Melrose site, people getting the vaccine will then be ushered through a corridor with paper arrows taped to the walls to help guide them to the school cafeteria. There, they will sit at one of 32 vaccine stations—two per cafeteria table—where a health worker will administer the Moderna shot. On Saturday, the vaccine was off-premises, being guarded in cold storage at a secure location to prevent theft, Dr. Chokshi noted. Each station consists of hand sanitizer, a sharps disposal container for used needles, hand wipes, latex gloves and face shield for the health worker, and a red and green placard. A red sign can be raised to alert supervisors that a station is in need of supplies, while a green sign indicates that the person who just received the shot is ready to be evaluated. Individuals are then escorted to the school’s gymnasium, where more than 100 seats are evenly spaced out to conform with social distancing rules. Once seated, they will be checked out by health workers to looking to catch any immediate side effects. Anyone with a severe allergic reaction to the vaccine, which is extremely rare, will be rushed to a nearby hospital via ambulance that will be parked outside the school. The entire process is intended to take no more than 20 minutes, allowing for a steady stream of people to come in. Those who receive the shot will be contacted frequently to ensure they get their follow-up dose. There is a chance a person vaccinated can go to another site for the follow-up shot, though Dr. Chokshi recommends they return to their original site. The opening of the three vaccination hubs come a day before people in the 1B category—which include critical public sector employees such as teachers and police, and those in the general public who are 75 years or older—can begin getting the shot on Monday. The order came from Governor Andrew Cuomo, who faced pressure from around the state to expand eligibility of the vaccine to prevent any doses from being discarded. “This will give them another important layer of protection through vaccination,” Dr. Chokshi said of the elderly. “So this is critically important for our ability to be able to save as many lives as possible.” Melanie Hartzog, deputy mayor for the Health and Human Services, said there are still open slots for people in 1B this week at their sites. A reservation phone number for less tech-savvy New Yorkers will be available for anyone looking for city or state assistance starting Monday. State Senator Luis Sepulveda, who represents the Melrose community, said the wrangling between city and state should have been dealt with before rolling out the vaccine. “I’ve seen so many people in our community dying; people where they would chair committee boards, people that were precinct council leaders, people that were just friends of mine that died unnecessarily,” Sepulveda said. For Councilmember Rafael Salamanca Jr., whose district covers Melrose, the arrival of the vaccine to his hometown is especially personal since he lost his father to the virus last spring. So far, 5,188 have died from the virus in the Bronx–with 4,243 confirmed dead from the virus, and the other 945 designated as a probable death attributable to COVID-19, according to city health figures. “It’s too bad that we didn’t have these vaccines back then when we could have saved a life,” Salamanca Jr. said. “Too many of our family members and our friends have lost their lives because of this pandemic. We’ve seen homelessness at a record high. We’ve seen individuals who are at the brink of losing their homes. And we’re seeing individuals losing their jobs.” By submitting your information, you’re agreeing to receive communications from New York Public Radio in accordance with our Terms. Do you know the scoop? Comment below or Send us a Tip


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