NEW YORK — New York City will launch a campaign to vaccinate a million residents for the coronavirus in January, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday.
The city, like much of the nation, has gotten off to a slow start in giving out the vaccine, with 88,000 people vaccinated since shots began on Dec. 14. It will need to pick up the pace significantly to reach de Blasio’s goal.
“This city can do it,” the mayor said. “The amazing health care professionals of this city are ready. We’re going to set up new sites all over the city, on top of the many, many sites that are already operational.”
The city plans to have 250 sites administering 300,000 vaccines a week by the end of January.
“We’re nowhere near where we need to be,” de Blasio said. “We need to go into overdrive now.”
New York will launch new publicly run vaccine hubs at school gyms and other locations starting in the middle of the month, doing 45,000 shots a week, said Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi. Some of the city’s existing coronavirus testing sites will begin offering the vaccine, adding another 4,000 a week.
And the city will send nurses and pharmacists to work at vaccine clinics run by community organizations and clinics, for an estimated 100,000 shots a week. Hospital systems and other providers currently have the capacity to do 150,000 vaccinations per week.
If the target is reached, the city — the hardest hit in the nation — will give the first dose of the vaccine to about 12 percent of its population in January. Continuing at the same pace, it would take until September to vaccinate all New Yorkers, though numbers will vary depending on how many people choose to be inoculated.
And officials acknowledged they could miss the target if they don’t get enough vaccine doses from the federal government or guidance from the state on who is eligible.
“Every single person we reach takes us one step closer to recovery,” de Blasio said.
The city has an estimated one million people in the top priority group for vaccines — health care workers and nursing home residents and staff. Those groups will likely be the focus of the January vaccine drive, but other groups may become eligible since not all of those workers will volunteer to take the vaccine.
The new municipal vaccine sites will follow state rules on who can get the vaccine. So far, only hospital workers and nursing home residents and staff are authorized. Health care providers in private practice and local clinics will be eligible starting next week, Chokshi said. The city is still awaiting authorization for other health care workers, such as home health aides.
“For us to move quickly, as is our intent, we have to be able to expand the circle of eligibility swiftly as well,” he said. “We want those categories to be expanded as quickly as possible.”
Other details have yet to be determined, including whether the shots will be by appointment or first come, first served, and how people will have to prove their eligibility.
De Blasio also announced that the city will observe March 14, 2021 as a day of remembrance for New Yorkers who have died from Covid-19. The figure is 25,144 people and counting. March 14 is the one-year anniversary of the first reported death from the disease.
“We’ve got to remember those we lost. And we’ve got to be there for their families every day,” de Blasio said. “We need to recognize 25,000 of our fellow New Yorkers gone.”