New York State residents who are at least 50 years old will be able to receive a COVID-19 vaccination starting this week after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday the age for eligibility has been lowered.
Cuomo, who was in Mount Vernon to enlist the faith community to help convince citizens to get the vaccines as part of the state’s Roll Up Your Sleeve campaign, said vaccines for those as young as 50 will be available starting Tuesday at 8 a.m.
“Make your appointment and get your vaccine,” implored Cuomo.
For the past few weeks, residents 60 and up have been able to get vaccinated. Before then, the age for eligibility was 65 unless a person had underlying conditions, were health care workers, teachers or first-responders.
In addition to the two state-operated vaccine sites, Westchester Community College and the Yonkers Armory, and the two county Department of Health clinics, those meeting the age threshold will be able to get vaccinated at pharmacies along with those with comorbidities.
The increase in vaccine availability comes as about 15 percent of Westchester’s population is fully inoculated and another 289,000 of the county’s residents, or about 29 percent, have received their first dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, County Executive George Latimer said.
Latimer said with all people in their 50s eligible as of Tuesday, there still could be lingering supply issues but those should be rectified in the coming weeks.
“We still have more demand than we have supply but for those folks who have been already seeking appointments, who have been eligible up to now, they’ve had the opportunity over some period of time, the (age) 65 threshold, which was the prior threshold, and then down to 60, has been around awhile, so we think it’s a reasonable expectation now, as many of these people are satisfied – not all of them – you open it up to the next cohort,” Latimer said.
A bigger challenge for the state was convincing residents in communities of color to seek their vaccinations as soon as they are eligible, Cuomo said. In the Hudson Valley region, for example, 79 percent of the population is white, but they make up 86 percent of people who are vaccinated. By contrast, 14 percent of the region is Black, but just 8 percent are vaccinated while 19 percent is Hispanic but they account for just 13 percent of vaccinations, Cuomo said.
He said the discrepancy must be rectified for the state and the nation to defeat COVID-19.
“We will have enough vaccines to vaccinate people,” Cuomo said, who mentioned that AstraZeneca is now going to the Food & Drug Administration for approval for its vaccine. “We have to make sure we have the capacity and the willingness to take the vaccine.”
As part of the Roll Up Your Sleeve campaign, Cuomo is calling on houses of worship and religious organizations to not only encourage their congregants to get the vaccine but to become local vaccination centers.
Since opening in mid-January, the Westchester Community College site has now surpassed 125,000 doses administered. Another 16,000 does have been distributed at the Yonkers armory and 25,000 at the county Health Department’s two clinics.
Slow Drop Continues
The number of active cases, hospitalizations and fatalities across Westchester continues to edge downward, although at an agonizingly slow rate.
On Monday, Latimer reported active cases were reduced to 5,233 as of Sunday, down 134 from the previous week. Two weeks ago, that figure stood at 5,930 and at 5,976 three weeks ago. The active caseload is the lowest in Westchester since late November, just as the fall spike was beginning.
On Saturday, there were 256 COVID-19-related hospitalizations in the county, virtually unchanged from the 253 a week earlier. Two weeks ago, that number stood at 270, but down noticeably from 340 three weeks ago.
Over the past week, there were 22 COVID-19 fatalities, also a slow diminution but less than half the number during the early winter spike.
Latimer said with a growing number of vaccines and a larger percentage of people becoming eligible for the shots, it is expected the cases, hospitalizations and deaths will eventually fall.
“At some point, the rise in the vaccination numbers should start to see a significant downturn in the number of positive cases,” he said.
For information on eligibility and vaccination sites, the public may call 1-833-697-4829 or visit https://am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/