Black neighborhoods being left behind in vaccine effort

Cyril Josh Barker | 2/18/2021, midnight
More than 670,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in New York City and close to 28,500 people have died ...
Mass vaccination site at NYC Health + Hospitals/ Bathgate in the Bronx on Sunday, January 10, 2021. Vaccine Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

More than 670,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in New York City and close to 28,500 people have died since the start of the pandemic in 2020. As vaccines continue being administered, numbers released by the city reveal that vaccinations are not reaching residents in Black neighborhoods.

Some good news this week in the fight against COVID-19. New York City administered 317,227 vaccines—the most in a week. Last Thursday saw the most vaccines administered in the city in a day, 55,339.

Even with those numbers, Mayor Bill de Blasio says the federal government must step in to give the city more vaccine supply. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has opened mass vaccine sites in California with a goal of opening 100 across the country.

“We, right now, could be doing half-a-million vaccinations each week if only we were given the supply,” de Blasio said. “We need more help from the federal government. We need the federal government to help us get us more supply, get supply directly to New York City. We need the State government to give us the flexibility we need. We need our fair share of vaccines. We are not getting our fair share of vaccines in this city right now.”

The city has about 45% of the state’s vaccines and performs over half of the state’s vaccinations. According to de Blasio the city could be getting 25,000 more vaccines if the city got its fair share of the state allotment.

On Monday, the city began administering the COVID-19 vaccine to New Yorkers of any age with certain underlying medical conditions including diabetes, heart disease, asthma and pregnancy.

Disparities remain in who is getting vaccinated. This week, the city released vaccine distribution numbers based on zip code. Areas with the least number of vaccinated people include Black neighborhoods in the South Bronx, parts of Central Queens and Central Brooklyn.

East New York and Brownsville, Brooklyn, are seeing the lowest number of people getting vaccinated. A vaccine location opened on Wednesday at Teachers Prep High School in Brownsville.

Other Black neighborhoods with low vaccination numbers include Hunts Point, Bronx; Cypress Hills and Ocean Hill in Brooklyn; and St. Albans, Rosedale, Laurelton, South Jamaica and Springfield Gardens in Queens. Vaccination sites are being opened at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn and York College in Queens.

“To guarantee an equitable recovery and rebuild from this pandemic for our historically underserved communities, it is imperative that we involve each and every trusted community-based organization in a truly all-hands-on-deck vaccination effort,” said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards. “That includes community vaccination hubs in neighborhoods of color hardest hit by COVID-19, tireless multilingual grassroots outreach campaigns, and so much more.”

This week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that New York State’s 7-day average COVID-19 positivity rate dropped to 3.7%, the lowest since Nov. 28. With the recent reopening of indoor dining at 25% capacity in the city and soon sporting events at 10% capacity, Cuomo says New Yorkers need to stay vigilant.

“We are working 24/7 to get vaccines into arms as quickly as possible, and while we have the operational capacity to do more, lack of supply remains the single limiting factor,” Cuomo said. “So while we do the work of getting every eligible person the vaccine as quickly as humanly possible, we need to continue to be smart: wear masks, socially distance, avoid gatherings.”