Mayor promises one million vaccinations by February amid criticism of slow rollout

A healthcare worker at Brookdale Hospital receives the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
One Brooklyn Health System

Amid criticism from local leaders, the mayor on Monday committed to a ramp-up of the city’s efforts to administer the COVID-19 vaccine, with a goal of distributing one million doses by February. 

“We’re going to be doing a variety of things to expand sites where we will have, through our Department of Health, pop-up sites that will be focused on health care workers. We’re going to have sites created by Health + Hospitals, our public health system. We’re going to have vaccine hubs created and three of them will be open on Sunday,” Bill de Blasio said. “This is the shape of things to come.”

New vaccination sites will be continuously brought online during the month, including the Bushwick Educational Campus on Irving Avenue in Bushwick, which will open as a vaccine hub on Jan. 10, according to City Hall. 

According to the city’s COVID-19 vaccine tracker, 443,000 vaccines have been delivered to New York City, but just 110,241 doses have been given to recipients — meaning less than a quarter of the city’s stockpile has reached members of the public as of midnight on Monday. 

Many local leaders have blasted the slow initial roll-out of the life saving concoction, including the city’s lack of a single dose given on Christmas and New Years, has been limited to the daytime, rather than the around the clock inoculations which experts say are necessary in the wartime scenario the city has found itself in. 

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson announced on Twitter that the legislature would be holding a hearing on the roll-out efforts.

“New Yorkers are rightly concerned about the slow pace of the vaccine rollout so far,” he wrote. “We will hold an oversight hearing on Tuesday, January 12 to determine if the city is doing everything in its power to safely and efficiently vaccinate New Yorkers as quickly as possible.”

Borough President Eric Adams and Councilman Robert Cornegy held a press conference on Sunday in front of the Department of Health’s Manhattan offices urging the city to expand the criteria for who is eligible for the vaccine in order to ensure as many New Yorkers as possible are vaccinated as quickly as possible. 

“I am calling for a seven-step plan that will expand eligibility for the vaccine, create a streamlined and transparent system for determining and communicating what tier New Yorkers fall into, and mobilize all available resources to set up vaccine hubs around the city,” Adams said. “This is a 24-hour, 7-day a week operation and we need to be on the ground to ensure everyone receives a vaccine.”

The beep is also pushing for a color-coded system to determine who is eligible for the shot, divided into red, yellow, and green groups. Under Borough Hall’s proposal, those in the ‘red’ category — frontline workers and first responders would receive the vaccine first, before those in the “yellow” system — those in the zip codes most affected by the virus, those in high-risk industries, and those with pre-existing conditions, before the general public in the “green” category received the shot.

Implementing a color-coded system would help prevent confusion with regards to who is eligible, Adams argues. 

On the hyperlocal level, Community Board 6 leaders urged the mayor to implement 24/7 test sites in a letter written by District Manager Mike Racioppo and Chair Peter Fleming. 

“There is a growing concern with the pace of the vaccine distribution and the limited days and hours at inoculation sites, for example, the lack of vaccinations being done on weekends,” the letter reads. “We know the city can do this the right and equitable way, we must make sure that it happens.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday announced he would fine hospitals for not distributing the vaccine fast enough, while at the same briefing proposing a law that would make it a crime to skip the vaccine line, which some critics, including some City Hall staffers, said was overly punitive and counterproductive to the goal of vaccinating as many people as possible.