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City Council health chair: Open COVID vaccine eligibility for all in hard-hit NYC nabes

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All residents in Big Apple neighborhoods that have been hardest-hit by COVID-19 should be allowed to receive the vaccine, a pair of city pols said Thursday.

Councilman Mark Levine (D-Manhattan), the chair of the Council Committee on Health, and Comptroller-turned-mayoral candidate Scott Stringer demanded that the state “immediately expand eligibility to people 16 and up” in the 33 neighborhoods that the city has found COVID-19 to have had a “disproportionate impact.”

“This really has been a pandemic defined by inequality and this vaccination effort in New York City is again defined by inequality,” said Levine at a press conference in City Hall Park.

The neighborhoods flagged by the pols include: Hunts Points and Long Wood in The Bronx; Bedford-Stuyvesant and Brownsville in Brooklyn; Harlem and Washington Heights in Manhattan; Jackson Heights and East Elmhurst in Queens; and St. George and Port Richmond on Staten Island.

Levine explained that even though more than 3.5 million vaccine doses have been administered in the Big Apple, “there’s a rate of fully vaccinated adults in many zip codes that are one half or one third of the citywide average.”

“This is unacceptable from a moral perspective,” Levine said, adding, “For compelling moral reasons, for social and racial justice reasons and for public health reasons, we must close the equity gap in vaccination.”

“We need to increase access. There’s a lot of talk about [vaccine] reluctance, but what we have here first and foremost is a lack of access in the communities that need it and the communities that are getting left behind,” said Levine, who’s also running for Manhattan borough president.

The lawmakers also called for mobile vaccination sites and an “increase” in door-to-door vaccination efforts.

“And, critically, we want spots reserved for high-impact neighborhoods so that no matter what, no communities are being left behind,” said Levine. “If we do this, when we do this, we can quickly move two weeks hence to a broader expansion of eligibility to all adults in the city and every neighborhood, to everyone who is 16-plus.”

People wait on line at a vaccination site in the South Bronx on March 10, 2021.
People wait on line at a vaccination site in the South Bronx on March 10, 2021.
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Stringer added, “It is simple: if we vaccinate more people more quickly and deliver creative strategies focused on equity, we can win the race against this virus.”

Though a slew of US states have already either opened COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to all adults or set upcoming dates for universal eligibility, New York still has no timeline for opening inoculations to all.

President Biden announced this month that he will direct all states to make all adults eligible for the vaccine by May 1.

Additional reporting by Nolan Hicks

People walking outside in Jamaica, Queens on May 19, 2020.
People walking outside in Jamaica, Queens, on May 19, 2020.
Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

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