By Todd Maisel
New York City’s frontline workers, first responders and the city’s most vulnerable will be at the front of the line for the COVID-19 vaccine when it is ready for distribution from whichever drug company is able to manufacture sufficient supplies, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday morning.
When the vaccine is widely available, de Blasio reported, the first phase will include front-line workers which include health care workers, first responders which include police, firefighters and EMS workers, would be first in line. In addition, essential workers will also be at the head of the line “as they make this city run.”
Included in that first phase would be “vulnerable New Yorkers, the folks who are in greatest danger from this disease,” according to de Blasio. A second phase will follow once sufficient supplies are available to inoculate the general public.
Several drug companies are in the final trials of their vaccines including Moderna, Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson and Merck of 23 companies in the running.
“The vaccine will be a crucial part of our rebirth – the vaccine will open up the doors to our bigger economic recovery,” de Blasio said. “We need to be ready and then we need to move quickly. We don’t have the exact date. No one has the exact date when the vaccine will be ready. But what we do know is it will be sooner rather than later. What we do know is that we have to have a plan that is fair and prioritize. And what we do know is we have to make the vaccine available to people, regardless of ability to pay. It has to be free for those who need it.”
De Blasio said that while the availability of a vaccine is not yet known, the city’s Health Department has been working on plans for the two phases of vaccination.
City Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi said the city has a history of public inoculations going back to the smallpox virus vaccines distributed to millions in the 1940s.
“This virus has humbled us before, but the New York City Health Department has a record from smallpox to influenza of mounting successful vaccination campaigns,” he said. “We have the tools, the staff, and the experience at the ready to serve this mission and a commitment matched to the magnitude of the challenge.”
Chokshi added that the city is striving for “equity” in distribution, especially in the hardest hit Black and Brown communities where many people did not survive the virus.
To date, more than 8.2 million Americans have contracted the virus, including President Trump, and more than 221,000 people have died from complications nationwide.