New York, New Jersey await vaccine supply boost as the need remains apparent

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NEW YORK — The quest to vaccinate New Yorkers as quickly, efficiently and equitably as possible has faced challenges, though government officials said new plans to increase supply are under way.

New York state’s vaccine supply will be increased by 16% initially by the federal government, officials said.

Plus, the state will know its supply for three weeks out, helping to provide more long term planning. According to Mayor Bill de Blasio, the increase will mean 17,000 more Moderna vaccines for New Yorkers.

“It’s vaccine, vaccine, vaccine and supply, supply, supply. That’s the ballgame right now,” said de Blasio.

With the focus on vaccines as the biggest game-changer, state and local officials continue to monitor hospitalization and infection rates across the state.

Overall rates are headed down — that’s why Gov. Andrew Cuomo has done away with red and orange zones altogether. Yellow microcluster zones, however, remain for Newburgh, Queens, Washington Heights and two areas of the Bronx.

But there’s still room for caution.

“If you see your zip code on the list, you have to take better care of yourself and your family. We all have that responsibility,” said Bronx Borough President, Ruben Diaz, Jr.

That is a point of frustration Diaz — personal responsibility.

So is the ability for out of town New Yorkers to get appointments for vaccines in the Bronx before actual Bronx residents, an issue both the mayor and governor say they’re keeping a close eye on now.

New York State has established a vaccine dashboard, providing updates on the state’s vaccine program at ny.gov/vaccinetracker.

On the other side of the Hudson River, New Jersey is expected to add 130,000 vaccine doses in the next few weeks.

But for both states, it’s still not enough.

And while officials wait for more supply, Dr. Stephen Brunnquell, president of the Englewood Health Physician Network, said doctors are still battling vaccine hesitancy in traditionally under-served communities.

“The other chief medical officers in Bergen County, as well s myself in Englewood. We’ve all set up programs; we’ve all hired folks, rented space, created registration systems — and here we sit, waiting for the vaccine,” he said.

It all adds up to a disjointed, uncoordinated effort of trying to convince people to get the vaccine, while those that do want it struggle to get appointments, and when it’s time, wondering if there will be enough supply to get the shot.

“You hear everybody can’t get them,” one New Jersey man said, after waiting in line getting his vaccine in New Jersey. “It’s the luck of the draw: it’s this and Powerball. You got two options.”

Andy Slavitt, a senior adviser on President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 response team, offered a blunt assessment.

“I would love to tell you that we inherited a situation where there were stockpiles and stockpiles of vaccines sitting there,” he said. “That is not the case.”

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