In an effort to set up clinics in communities hit hard by COVID-19 and foster equity and trust in the medical system, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Saturday that the state will establish more vaccination sites at several additional churches and NYCHA public housing complexes this week.
The sites at the NYCHA buildings will serve eligible residents of those complexes. Those news sites are the Randall Avenue-Balcom Avenue Housing complex and the Union Avenue-East 163rd Street Housing complex in the Bronx, and the William Reid Houses and Vandalia Avenue Housing complex in Brooklyn.
Two churches are also going to operate vaccination clinics this upcoming Tuesday only: St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in the Bronx and Bethany Baptist Church in Brooklyn, which are located in predominately Black neighborhods. The church clinic appointments will be scheduled independently by each individual church, according to the state.
The sites were selected to operate in neighborhoods that were heavily affected by COVID-19, Cuomo said at a press conference at the William Reid Houses Saturday. He urged residents to avail themselves of the vaccine.
“Take the vaccine. It will save lives and it can save your life. We know Blacks have a higher infection rate. We know they’re more essential workers. They’re more exposed to it,” he said. “Please take the vaccine. We’ll make it accessible, but we need you to accept it, and that’s what we’re here to do today.”
A December survey conducted by the Pew Research Center showed that 42% of Black Americans were willing to take the COVID-19 vaccine, according to FiveThirtyEight, with “experts (saying) there is long-standing mistreatment of Black Americans in U.S. health care research and lingering suspicion from that mistreatment about how the American health care system treats them.”
The new neighborhood clinics will be operated by the SOMOS Community Care health network, with the state delivering Community Vaccination Kits with office supplies, equipment, and PPE as well as vials and syringes for the vaccines. SOMOS officials expect to vaccinate 1,000 senior citizens at the four NYCHA housing complexes on Saturday, and Cuomo pledged that all 33 NYCHA housing complexes will eventually have dedicated access to the vaccine.
Representatives Hakeem Jeffries and Yvette Clarke, who both represent Brooklyn, also spoke at the press conference to ask that Black New Yorkers get vaccinated.
“COVID-19 will kill you and we have seen that particularly with devastating consequences in Black communities, in low-income communities, and in traditionally underserved communities,” Jeffries said.
“(This) means telling everyone you know who is high-risk to come and get vaccinated. So call grandma, grandpa, auntie, uncle, and let them know: we have to get vaccinated. It will save their lives,” Clarke said.
However, supply of the vaccines continues to be an issue. The state’s health care distribution sites have received 1,178,850 first doses and administered 92 percent or 1,084,814 first dose vaccinations, Cuomo’s office said Saturday. Next week’s allocation of 250,400 first doses began arriving in shipments in mid-week.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he wants the city to be able to vaccinate 1 million people by the end of January, though on Wednesday the city rescheduled thousands of people’s vaccine appointments because a shipment of the Moderna shot has been delayed. De Blasio has also prioritized older residents living in NYCHA to receive the shot through an initiative that will transport the elderly to various vaccine hubs.
The decision whether to use the state’s allocation of the reserved second doses to instead vaccinate more people for their first round will have to come from the federal government, Cuomo said Saturday.
“It has to be approved by the federal government, if they have the production to produce enough second dosages,” he said. “But they have to make sure they have enough to do the second dosage. In other words, that’s the federal calculus, right?”