De Blasio seeks expanded COVID-19 vaccine eligibility as fight to secure more shots continues

FILE PHOTO: Professor Gottfried Kremsner injects a vaccination against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) from German biotechnology company CureVac to a volunteer at the start of a clinical test series at his tropical institute of the university clinic in Tuebingen, Germany, June 22, 2020.
(REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach/File Photo)

By Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech

Mayor Bill de Blasio is asking the state to expand the category of COVID-19 vaccine eligible New Yorkers to include members of the clergy, jurors, prosecutors, sanitation workers as well as taxi and limousine drivers.

The request comes at a time when the city’s vaccine supply is rapidly depleting, and both the city and state governments are scrambling to procure more to inoculate individuals in phases 1a and 1b — including health care workers, first responders, teachers and other essential workers.

On Wednesday, de Blasio particularly pressed for the freedom to inoculate city religious leaders arguing the move could help dispel fears towards the shot in some communities, further ramping up the state’s sluggish vaccine rollout.

“There’s distrust of the government and the medical field,” said de Blasio. “We need to overcome that with a lot of information and a lot of clear answers, but especially [with] the voices of trusted leaders from the community, and our faith leaders are really stepping up, and they’re reminding us and all those out there, including the hesitant folks, that we have witnessed something of a miracle.”

Some religious groups, like the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, applauded the mayor’s “recognition of the need for clergy to be vaccinated.”

“As the Mayor acknowledged, our priests, deacons, and sisters, as do leaders of all houses of worship throughout our City, stand on the front lines in bringing faith, hope, and comfort to their congregation during this pandemic,” said Brooklyn Diocese spokesperson John Quaglione.

Skepticism towards the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines,  particularly among some health care workers, has been played role in the country’s slow vaccine rollout due. Some distrust the vaccine since it was approved for mass distribution under Former President Donald Trump while others are hesitant to take the vaccine because of the country’s history of medical experimentation on communities of color. Either way, fear over a new vaccine is nothing new in the United States. 

But the number of Americans willing to take the vaccine has increased since the Modern and Pfizer shots were given FDA approval and as more public figures become inoculated, according to the Pew Research Center. 

De Blasio’s call for more New Yorkers to become eligible comes as the city struggles to get more supply of the COVID-19 vaccine from Washington.

After de Blasio warned that the city’s supply of the vaccine was worrisomely low, the city has forced to reschedule roughly 23,000 vaccine appointments and delay the reopening of mega vaccination sites at Citi Field, Yankee Stadium, and Staten Island’s Empire Outlets.

In addition, the mayor announced that due to limited supply the city would not meet its target goal of administering one million doses of the vaccine and that the city’s stockpile of first-dose shots had actually dipped to just 7,710.

The city received a bit of good news though on Wednesday, with de Blasio announcing that the city will get 17,000 more doses of the Moderna vaccine during each shipment starting next week. “That means 17,000 more shots of hope,” said de Blasio, “17,000 more New Yorkers who are safer and are feeling that confidence and that sense of peace that comes with getting vaccinated, even just the first time, and knowing that things are going to be better.”

As of Wednesday, the city has administered 673,405 doses of the vaccine with 108,768 being second doses.

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