The COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Plan in New York

Posted on 04/19/21 by Catherine Maddux

 En español | Who can get vaccinated now? 

  • New York has paused distribution of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine because of a type of blood clot that has developed in a small number of people after vaccination. The federal government has called the reaction “extremely rare” but “serious.” If you have an appointment for the J&J vaccine, New York's state health department says it will honor it with a different vaccine. You can also contact your provider or the health department for more information. 

Where can I get vaccinated?

  • State-run vaccination sites: Use the state health department’s online tool to find vaccination sites and book appointments or call the state vaccine hotline at 833-697-4829. For locations and appointments in New York City, use the city's vaccine finder or by calling 877-829-4692. Walk-up appointments for New Yorkers age 50 and older are available at city-run sites. A full list is available on the city vaccine website or call the health department at 877-829-4692 for more information. Fully homebound New York City residents can also apply for in-home vaccinations online.
  • Pharmacies: CVS (including those located within some Target stores), Walgreens and Costco pharmacies are offering COVID-19 vaccines across the state. In New York City, CVSWalgreens (including Duane Reed) Rite Aid and Costco are administering vaccines to eligible residents, including those age 60 plus, teachers, school staff, childcare workers, and those with underlying medical conditions. For those without Internet access, call Walgreens at 800-925-4733, CVS at 800-746-7287 and Rite Aid at 800-748-3243.
  • Mass vaccination sites: Eligible New Yorkers can schedule appointments at sites across the state by using the state COVID website or by calling 833-697-4829. New York City residents can search for and schedule appointments at mass vaccination sites online or by calling 877-829-4692. A mass vaccination site for Bronx residents is available at Yankee Stadium. Appointments are available online or by calling 833-766-6769. Two other vaccination sites for Brooklyn (Medgar Evers College) and Queens (York College) residents are operating and allow on-site appointment sign ups. The Javitz Center in Manhattan, and the New York State Fair’s fairgrounds in Syracuse are also vaccinating eligible residents (use the state's online tool to sign up). Three mass vaccination sites in Long Island - in Brentwood, Old Westbury and Southampton - are open for appointments. Use the state's online tool to book appointments or call the state vaccine hotline at 833-697-4829. Appointments are now available for 10 state-wide mass vaccination sites. A complete list is available online with instructions on how to sign up.
  • Pop-up vaccination sites and mobile units: Community-based pop-up vaccination sites are being opened on an ongoing basis across the state. See a current list with contact information and operating hours on the New York state website. You can also call the state COVID-19 hotline at 833-697-4829. In New York City, vaccine sites are open in Brooklyn (Flatbush YMCA, City Point, Church of God, St. Paul Community Baptist Church), the Bronx (West Bronx Gym), Manhattan (Abyssinian Baptist Church), and Queens (New Jerusalem Center). Make an appointment online with the New York City vaccine finder tool or call 877-829-4692. The city's first mobile vaccine unit is offering vaccinations to restaurant workers and delivery workers, who can sign up by emailing vaccbus@roarnewyork.org or by calling 833-762-7692.
  • A federally backed online tool called VaccineFinder lets you search for vaccination sites by zip code, with links to appointments.
  • Veterans Affairs facilities are vaccinating veterans, spouses and veteran caregivers. Those enrolled in the VA health care system get priority; additional appointments will go to others who are eligible based on their age, health problems and other factors that increase their COVID-19 risk. Sign up with VA to get updates on vaccine availability and to be notified when you can make an appointment.
  • Vaccine supplies remain limited in many areas. Most vaccine sites require you to schedule an appointment online or by phone. Appointments can be hard to get, as available time slots may be booked quickly, and you might be put on a waiting list. You can sign up at multiple sites to increase your chances of getting an appointment, but once you have confirmed a slot at one site, public health officials ask that you don’t schedule with any other provider so that those slots stay open for others.
New York City Opens Javits Convention Center As Vaccination Site

AARP recommends that you ask your doctor about the safety, effectiveness, benefits and risks of the coronavirus vaccine. Older adults, especially those with underlying medical conditions, are at  increased risk for hospitalization and death from COVID-19.  

What should I bring to my vaccination appointment?

Some vaccination sites ask for proof of identity or eligibility. Officials recommend that you bring a driver’s license or other state-issued ID that shows your name, age and state residency, and your health insurance card, if you have one. You will not be charged, but the vaccine provider may bill your insurer a fee for administering the vaccine.

If you are prioritized because of an underlying medical condition or based on your work, you may need a note from your doctor, a pay stub or badge, or some other form of proof. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says to wear a mask at your appointment.

How will nursing homes and other long-term care residents get the vaccine?  

Most residents and staff of long-term care facilities in New York are being vaccinated through a federal program that contracted with CVS, Walgreens, HealthDirect/Kinney Drugs, and Pharmscript to administer COVID-19 vaccines via free on-site clinics. Apart from a very small number of outstanding clinics, the program is complete. 

To ensure long-term care facilities still have access to COVID-19 vaccines — for new residents or staff, or for residents and staff who were initially hesitant to receive the shots — the federal government is continuing to allocate vaccines to pharmacies partnered with long-term care facilities. 

Which vaccines require a second shot?

The COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna require two doses. If you get one of these, you’ll need a follow-up dose to be effectively immunized. The recommended second-shot date is three weeks after a first dose of the Pfizer vaccine and four weeks for Moderna’s, but the CDC says an interval of up to six weeks is acceptable. You should get a card from your provider stating when and where to return for the second dose. The state says it will send reminders via text, emails and phone calls.   

Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine requires just one shot, though distribution of that vaccine has been paused.

Under New York’s interim distribution plan, your entire immunization process will be tracked by a statewide database known as NYSIIS, the New York State Immunization Information System.  It’s not yet known how long immunity from a coronavirus vaccine lasts and whether it needs to be administered on a regular basis like a flu shot.

Do I have to pay for the vaccination?   

You should not have any out-of-pocket cost for getting the vaccine. AARP fought to make sure the federal government is covering the cost of the vaccine itself. Providers can recoup a fee for administering the shot, but not from consumers. They would be reimbursed by the patient’s insurance company or the government (in the case of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries and the uninsured, for example). 

New York health insurers have been directed by state officials to immediately cover, without cost-sharing, approved COVID-19 immunizations and their administration. 

There are already reports of scammers purporting to offer COVID vaccines and treatments and trying to charge for them. AARP’s Fraud Watch Network is tracking the latest scams.  

What should I do with my vaccine card? 

You should get a small white card at your vaccination appointment with your name, birth date, name of the vaccine you received and the date it was administered. If you receive the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, bring your card when you get your second shot.  

You may need your vaccine card for certain kinds of travel or other activities, so keep it in a safe place. You can take a photo of it with your smartphone for your own records. Experts say that posting a photo of your card to social media could make you vulnerable to identity theft. If you lose your card or did not receive one, contact your vaccine provider or your local health department to get a copy. 

When will kids be able to get vaccinated? 

Pfizer’s vaccine is authorized for people 16 and older, while the Moderna vaccine is authorized for those 18 and older. Pfizer has asked federal officials to consider expanding eligibility for its vaccine to those as young as 12, and both companies are researching how their vaccines work in children as young as 6 months. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has said he expects high school students will be able to get a vaccine by this fall and that “kids of any age” will likely be eligible by early next year. 

Should I still wear a mask after getting vaccinated?  

Yes. Experts are still learning about how vaccines affect the spread of COVID-19, so the CDC still recommends taking precautions while in public — including wearing masks, social distancing, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces. Scientists are also studying the effectiveness of the vaccines against new, more contagious strains of the coronavirus. 

It takes two weeks to build immunity after the single-dose shot and the second dose of the two-dose shots. After that, fully vaccinated individuals can gather indoors with other fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart, the CDC says. They can also gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household without masks, unless any of them are at a high risk for severe COVID-19.

This guide was updated on April 19 with information about no appointment vaccinations for New York City residents age 50 and up.

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Find information about getting a COVID-19 vaccine in your state. CDC information is available at cdc.gov/coronavirus; additional AARP information and resources are at aarp.org/coronavirus. En español, visite aarp.org/elcoronavirus.

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