Jon Campbell | New York State Team
Front line worker gets COVID-19 vaccine
Rochester Regional Health and UR Medicine ran vaccine clinics throughout the weekend.
Shawn Dowd, @sdowdphoto
ALBANY – New York expanded eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, with those age 75 or older joining teachers, police, firefighters, grocery stores and others in gaining access.
Whether the newly eligible recipients can successfully schedule an 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. But first they have to fill out a key state eligibility questionnaire before they can schedule an appointment.
Cuomo warned, however, that it may take up to 14 weeks to get an appointment with some pharmacies and health care providers, who are expecting a crush of calls from people looking to get vaccinated.
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?
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.
According to the state, those eligible in Phase 1B are:
- Individuals age 75 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.
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. You may also get an eligibility certification emailed to you.
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 is set to launch a vaccination hotline at 4 p.m. Monday to schedule an appointment. You can reach the hotline at 1-833-NYS-4-VAX (1-833-697-4829).
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 75 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 have 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.
There are some exceptions, however: The New York State Fair Exposition Center near Syracuse, for example, had hundreds of available appointments available as of 10 a.m. Monday. The site is accepting reservations online.
In White Plains, the Westchester County Center had hundreds of appointments available online as of 10 a.m., too.
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.”
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).”
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 soon open:
- 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 next week)
- Binghamton University property in Johnson City (Opening next week)
- Dome Arena, Henrietta (Opening next week)
- Plattsburgh Airport (Opening next week)
- SUNY Potsdam (Opening next week)
- Utica Memorial Auditorium (Opening next week)
- University at Buffalo South Campus (Opening next week)
- Aqueduct Race Track, Queens (Opening next week)
More: NY to expand COVID vaccine eligibility Monday, but short supply will delay shots, Cuomo says
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.
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