Manhattan’s Jacob Javits Center became a mass COVID-19 vaccination hub Wednesday — in what may be the largest inoculation location in the country — but officials continued to call for more doses to keep up with demand.
The convention center, which served as a coronavirus field hospital at the beginning of the city outbreak, was one of three state-run mega vaccination facilities that opened its doors Wednesday morning.
“We have transformed the convention center in what will be the largest mass vaccination site possibly in the country,” Michael Kopy, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Director of Emergency Management, said at the opening.
Kopy said the state is “prepared” to inoculate 10,000 New Yorkers in a 12-hour period at the facility — if it has the doses to do so.
“We have the ability to ramp that up to 25,000 people in a 24-hour period with the resources we have here in place now,” Kopy explained. “That said, we can’t do that without vaccines coming to New York from Washington — that is the key component.”
State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker noted that more than 7 million New Yorkers are now eligible to receive the vaccine since the state expanded eligibility — with all New Yorkers age 65 and older able to request appointments as of Monday.
“The fact is more than 7 million New Yorkers are now eligible, but we only get 300,000 doses each week from the federal government and at that rate it could take up to six months to vaccinate everyone currently eligible,” Zucker said.
Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday also claimed the Big Apple is expected to run out of vaccine “at some point next week unless we get a major new resupply because so many New Yorkers want the vaccine and we have the ability to give it to them.”
“The key thing here is we need more vaccine,” Hizzoner said. “The inevitable has happened, tens-of-thousands of folks have come forward, wanting the vaccine, rightfully.”
However, the federal government announced Tuesday that it would stop holding back second doses so more shots can be released across the country.
And the states have long been criticized for not using the doses they do have.
About 25,000 doses were given in New York on both Monday and Tuesday, which is up substantially from last week, according to city data. But the city still has a lot more on hand — with 267,923 shots administered from 793,675 received.
Would-be vaccine recipients have also complained that the city’s online sign-up system to book a shot is buggy and convoluted — while the phone line is plagued by long wait times.
“There is a decentralized patchwork of registration tools and appointment processes which span multiple sites and create a cumbersome process for people in need,” Public Advocate Jumaane Williams groused at a press conference Wednesday.
“Having to answer lengthy questionnaires creating complex profiles is a needless burden. These problems have created a technological barrier preventing eligible New Yorkers, especially seniors, from being vaccinated.”
But many who scored appointments at Javits on Wednesday reported having a positive experience.
“I’m gonna’ go out and live. I’m going to see my grandchildren … I feel very good,” 77-year-old Larry Smith, a retired chemist, said after he received his first of two doses of the coveted vaccine at the center.
Smith got to the facility at 7:30 a.m. for his 8 a.m. appointment and was inoculated by about 8:40 a.m., he said.
“The only hold up was making a second appointment,” said Smith, noting that it took about 45 minutes at the site for him to make an appointment for his second shot.
Kit Laybourne, 77, a retired teacher and filmmaker, was also among the first New Yorkers to get vaccinated at the newly opened facility.
“I’m feeling really good. I’m feeling lucky and I hope every old geezer like me gets in there fast,” said Laybourne, who called getting the injection “absolutely essential.”
“I have kids and grandchildren in LA and I never see them for months and months. I want to be with my family,” he said. “This is really important — top priority for me.”
One 94-year-old woman showed up without an appointment, but managed to get jabbed anyway since it was not busy at the time.
“I had no appointment. I decided to come when I heard about this. They did it today because there was nobody around,” said the woman, who only gave the name Miriam. “They took care of me and made [an appointment] right away so I could get it.”