NEW YORK — New York City will be getting two new major vaccine distribution centers by the end of the month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday.
The sites, which will open in Queens and Brooklyn the week of Feb. 24, are meant to address disparities in vaccine access in communities of color.
With a supply of 3,000 doses per day, the sites will be the largest vaccine distribution centers in the state, Cuomo said, and their supply will come from a special allocation from the federal government, and not come out of the city’s weekly allocations.
“These sites are different than anything we’ve done before,” Cuomo said at a press conference announcing the sites, where he was joined by members of the White House COVID-19 task force and civil rights leaders. “These are going to be very large sites. They're complicated situations, but they're gonna address a dramatic need of the vaccine for people who need the vaccine most.”
One site, in Queens, will be located at York College in Jamaica. The other site, in Brooklyn, will be at Medgar Evers College in Crown Heights. They will be staffed by both federal army personnel and state guard members. The sites will be open only to residents of their respective boroughs.
The site in Jamaica is located near communities that have seen high rates of deaths from COVID-19, according to city data.
Cuomo said the state is planning to create similar sites in upstate New York aimed at vaccinating people in “socially vulnerable communities.”
The sites, he added, are meant to combat skepticism in those communities about the vaccine by building trust that the vaccine is safe and accessible. Cuomo underscored the fact that the sites are not part of state or city health systems.
“If you just go to the existing public health system, it doesn't exist in health care deserts — that’s why they’re health care deserts,” Cuomo said. “Any distribution of the vaccine has to take that into consideration at inception.”
Rev. Al Sharpton praised Cuomo’s efforts to expand vaccine access for Black and Hispanic Americans, and said he would get his own first dose of the COVID-19 vaccines at one of the sites.
“It’s really a matter of life and death,” Sharpton said. “These mass vaccination sites in Queens and in Brooklyn will have a huge impact.”
Cuomo credited the administration of President Joseph Biden with setting up the new sites and their separate vaccine allocation stream.
The sites are the latest major vaccination hubs to open in the city. On Wednesday, Citi Field, in Queens, opened up for vaccinations for Queens residents and licensed taxi drivers and food delivery workers. On Friday, Yankee Stadium opened up for residents of the Bronx.
Cuomo's announcement came less than an hour after Mayor Bill de Blasio appeared at Citi Field to draw attention to the opening of that site, which only has supply enough to give out 800 vaccine doses through Saturday.
In response to a question about the state opening a separately supplied vaccine hub in Queens just after the city opened an under-supplied site in the same borough, Cuomo said of the city, "That was their decision."
At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, de Blasio repeated his wish for a direct supply of vaccines to New York City from the federal government, which de Blasio said would "simplify" the vaccine process and ensure that the city receives enough vaccine to cover people from the suburbs and out of state who use city sites.
"I respect anything and everything the state does. But I'm trying to get a simpler approach for the city, where we get a direct allotment," de Blasio said. "We gotta go back more to what we have historically done, which is let localities figure out whats right for localities."