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New York officials weighing new options to expand COVID-19 vaccine access

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Under fire for a sluggish rollout, New York officials are considering activating senior citizen centers and recreational centers to dramatically expand access to the coronavirus vaccine, the Post has learned.

Using centers for the elderly and youths to boost the number of New Yorkers inoculated from COVID-19 has come up during discussions involving aides to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and local elected officials.

“The governor’s office did ask about using recreational centers for vaccination sites,” said Islip Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter.

Talks particularly centered on utilizing the rec center in Brentwood, the locality with Long Island’s highest coronavirus infection rate, Carpenter said.

In turn, Carpenter recommended that Team Cuomo agree to use senior citizen centers — which have been closed to prevent spread of the killer bug during the pandemic — as vaccination sites.

Carpenter said she’s committed to preparing the facilities as vaccination sites right away.

“We’ll turn it around in a day,” she said. “We want people to get vaccinated.”

For his part, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he would expand access to the vaccine by utilizing neighborhood centers including school gymnasiums. He has pledged the city would vaccinate 1 million residents by the end of January after the anemic rollout last months.

Brentwood Recreation Center
Brentwood Recreation Center
Daniel Goodrich

One state lawmaker said planning for the selection of community sites to ramp up vaccine distribution should have been done weeks, if not months ago.

“I wish the Cuomo Administration had spent as much time preparing for the distribution of these life-saving vaccines as they spent holding press conferences, restricting small businesses, and launching political attacks on the president,” said Long Island Sen. Phil Boyle (R- Bay Shore).

“It’s unbelievable that they are only now scrambling to find distribution sites when they have known these vaccines were coming for months?”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Matthew McDermott

Cuomo on Monday blamed local elected and hospital officials — including Mayor de Blasio and the city’s public Health + Hospital system — for the slow rollout. De Blasio returned fire — blaming the governor for restricting the category of New Yorkers currently eligible to receive the vaccine.

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