New Yorkers with chronic health conditions that made them eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine flooded a state website and call center on Sunday morning, leaving many unable to schedule appointments immediately in mass vaccination centers.
State officials said Sunday that 73,000 appointments had been scheduled for 11:30 am, while 500,000 people had gone through an online eligibility screening tool needed to make appointments. Thousands of people were in virtual waiting rooms that could accommodate up to 8,000 people per vaccination site. Once those waiting rooms are full, people attempting to make appointments should try again later.
Richard Azzopardi, senior adviser to Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, said demand was high, but “our infrastructure has remained in place and intact.” He said the state’s ability to make appointments depends on the vaccine supply, which is steadily increasing.
Officials said the new criteria, which include chronic health conditions like obesity and hypertension, made four million more New Yorkers eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine. They are joining a growing number of people in the state who are eligible for the vaccine despite a supply shortage.
Those who are now eligible include adults who have certain health conditions that may increase their risk of serious illness or death from coronavirus. Besides obesity and high blood pressure, other conditions that would qualify New Yorkers for the vaccine include lung disease and cancer, Cuomo announced this month. It also made pregnancy a qualifying condition.
Appointments for people in this group can be scheduled as early as Monday, although most people will likely face a long wait as vaccine doses are now scarce. New Yorkers must provide proof of their condition with a doctor’s note, signed certification or medical documentation, Cuomo said.
“While this is a big step forward in ensuring that the most vulnerable among us have access to this life-saving vaccine, it’s no secret that whenever you come across such a scarce resource, there are will be attempted fraud and gambling systems, ”Cuomo said in a statement.
In New York state, about 10% of the population received their first dose, according to data collected by the New York Times. With the new criteria, around 11 million people are now eligible in the state, including people aged 65 and over, healthcare workers and teachers.
New York City recently opened mass vaccination sites at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx and Citi Field in Queens to better reach communities hard hit by the virus. The state and federal government also announced last week that the Federal Emergency Management Agency would open vaccination sites at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn and York College in Queens.
To verify eligibility and schedule an appointment, New Yorkers can pre-screen on the state’s website. They can also call the state immunization hotline at 1-833-NYS-4VAX (1-833-697-4829) for more information on appointments for vaccines.