Can you get the COVID vaccine in NY? How to find out and schedule a shot
ALBANY – New York expanded eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine this week, with those age 65 or older joining teachers, police, firefighters, grocery stores and others in gaining access.
Whether the newly eligible recipients can successfully score a coveted appointment is another story.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday he would open up Phase 1B of the state's vaccine prioritization plan, coming to the decision after facing pressure from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and other local officials who claimed the state's first phase was too restrictive and slowed down administering inoculations.
Now, more than 3 million elderly people and certain essential workers became eligible on Monday. And more than 1.5 million more became eligible Tuesday, when the state acted on new CDC guidance and allowed those 65 or older to participate.
First, though, they have to fill out a key state eligibility questionnaire before they can schedule an appointment.
Cuomo on Friday warned that it may take up to 14 weeks to get an appointment, with pharmacies, health care providers and other vaccine sites hit with a crush of calls and appointment requests from people looking to get vaccinated and the state only getting 300,000 doses a week.
That timeline was expanded even further on Tuesday, when those 65 or older became eligible, joining those 75 and older who were deemed eligible the day before. Now, it may take up to six months to vaccinate those currently eligible absent a major boost in vaccine production, Cuomo warned.
Here's what you need to know about Phase 1B in New York's vaccine program and how to schedule an appointment:
Who is eligible for Phase 1B in New York?
Note: Updated Thursday, Jan. 14
The state Department of Health issued an updated list of people and professions who are newly eligible for the vaccine in Phase 1B, which started Monday. That included those over the age of 75.
On Tuesday, the state expanded eligibility to include those over the age of 65. Cuomo said the state will also allow the "immunocompromised" to make vaccine appointments in the near future, but the state is awaiting word on which conditions and diseases are eligible.
According to the state, those currently eligible as part of Phase 1B are:
- Individuals age 65 and older
- First responder and support staff for first responder agency
- Fire service, including state and local firefighters and investigators (professional and volunteer)
- Police and investigations workers, including all state, county, and local police agencies and state field investigators
- Public safety communications, including emergency communication and public safety answering point personnel like dispatchers and technicians
- Other sworn and civilian personnel, including court officers, other police or peace officer, and civilian support staff
- Corrections, including state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision personnel, local correctional facilities and local probation departments, and state and local juvenile detention and rehabilitation facilities.
- P-12 school or school district faculty or staff (includes all teachers, substitute teachers, student teachers, school administrators, paraprofessional staff and support staff including bus drivers)
- Contractors working in a P-12 school or school district (including contracted bus drivers)
- Licensed, registered, approved or legally exempt group childcare and group childcare providers, including employees and support staff
- Public transit workers, including airline and airport employees, passenger railroad employees, subway and mass transit employees, ferry employees, Port Authority employees and public bus employees
- Individuals living or working in a homeless shelter where sleeping, bathing or eating accommodations must be shared with individuals and families who are not part of your household
- Public-facing grocery store workers
- In-person college instructors
Those in Phase 1B join those who were already eligible for the vaccine under Phase 1A, which included most health care workers as well as nursing home residents and staff.
All told, more than 7 million New York residents are now eligible to get vaccinated, according to Cuomo's office.
A full list of eligible occupations is available at covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov.
Think you're eligible? Fill out this New York state form
If you believe you meet the criteria to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine in New York, you will have to fill out a state questionnaire to confirm your eligibility.
To get started, visit am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov and click "Get Started".
From there, you will have to fill out your name and contact information, as well as answer questions about your occupation and living situation to determine eligibility.
If you're eligible, the website displays a message confirming eligibility and and providing a list of locations for nearby pharmacies and providers that can administer the vaccine.
For some locations, there's a website to schedule an appointment. For others, there's a phone number listed where you have to call to set up a reservation.
If you're not able to fill out the form online, the state launched a vaccination hotline Monday to schedule an appointment. You can reach the hotline at 1-833-NYS-4-VAX (1-833-697-4829), but be aware: Hold times were lengthy Monday afternoon.
I filled out the form. Now how do I schedule an appointment?
Scheduling an appointment may depend in part on whether you're a public employee.
Public employees — teachers, firefighters and police officers, for example — have two options. They can contact their unions or health plans to determine when and how they can schedule a vaccination appointment, or they can schedule an appointment through the state's eligibility site or hotline.
Cuomo has been urging the unions to come up with systems where they can administer the vaccine using their own personnel, so as not to clog up the pharmacies and providers for the general population.
Those over the age of 65 will be directed to try to set up appointments with a pharmacy, provider or vaccination site near them.
As of Monday morning, some pharmacies and vaccine sites had not yet began taking appointments because they remain unsure of when they will get a vaccine shipment or how many doses they will get. About 400 pharmacies statewide are expected to get the vaccine this week; many of those had begun taking appointments by Monday afternoon.
Larger, state-run vaccine sites are also being launched. The New York State Fair Exposition Center near Syracuse, for example, had hundreds of available appointments available as of mid-afternoon Monday, including some in late January.
In White Plains, the Westchester County Center had hundreds of appointments available online as of 10 a.m., too. By mid-afternoon, the appointments were booked into March.
Health care providers, meanwhile, are required to vaccinate their staff members and personnel before vaccinating members of the general public. So they may not be accepting appointments yet, either.
On Friday, Cuomo warned that it may still be weeks before many members of Phase 1B can get a reservation.
That's based on the state getting 300,000 doses of the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines a week, its current rate. That could change as more companies' vaccines are approved.
At this rate, it will take us 14 weeks to do 1A and 1B," Cuomo said. "Fourteen weeks. Fourteen weeks is an eternity of time, but it will take 14 weeks to do 1A and 1B."
By Tuesday, when the 65-plus crowd was made eligible, that estimate was already out of date. Now, with more than 7 million people eligible and the state receiving 300,000 doses a week, it would take six months absent a boost in vaccine production, which is expected when more companies get their vaccines approved.
Do I need to make an appointment? Or can I walk in?
Yes, you need to make an appointment.
For the time being at least, New York is requiring eligible members of the general public to make an appointment to get a vaccine, according to the state.
What do I need to bring to my vaccine appointment?
According to the state Department of Health, those being vaccinated "must bring proof of eligibility to the vaccination site."
"This may include an employee ID card, a letter from an employer or affiliated organization, or a pay stub, depending on the specific priority status," according to the state's vaccine website. "If you are eligible because of your age, bring a government-issued ID that includes your date of birth (like a Driver’s License or passport)."
You will also have to fill out a form that has you attest under penalty of perjury that you are a member of a group eligible to take the vaccine, according to the state.
When will more vaccination sites open up?
As of Monday, it was hit or miss as to what areas of the states had vaccination sites ready to go and accepting appointments.
According to Cuomo's office, about 400 pharmacies are expected to get vaccine doses this week. And a series of state-run, higher-traffic vaccination sites are scheduled to open this week and next.
According to top Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa, the following state-run sites are scheduled to open soon:
- Javits Center, Manhattan (Opening Jan. 13)
- State Fair Expo Center, Onondaga County (Opening Jan. 13)
- Westchester County Center, White Plains (Opening Jan. 13)
- Jones Beach, Nassau County (Opening Jan. 14)
- University at Albany (Opening Jan. 15)
- SUNY Stony Brook, Suffolk County (Opening soon)
- Binghamton University property in Johnson City (Opening soon)
- Dome Arena, Henrietta (Opening soon)
- Plattsburgh Airport (Opening soon)
- SUNY Potsdam (Opening soon)
- SUNY Polytechnic Institute, Utica (Opening soon)
- University at Buffalo South Campus (Opening soon)
- Aqueduct Race Track, Queens (Opening soon)
Do I need to make an appointment for a second dose?
If you're getting your vaccine at one of the state-run sites listed above, you will get an appointment for your second dose when you show up in person for your first dose, according to the Cuomo administration.
If you're getting your vaccine at a hospital, doctor's office, pharmacy or some other provider, check in with them to see how you can book a second appointment.
Jon Campbell is a New York state government reporter for the USA TODAY Network. He can be reached at JCAMPBELL1@Gannett.com or on Twitter at @JonCampbellGAN.