MANHATTAN — There is an electronic billboard outside the Javits Center that flashes two messages: “proud to have been your vaccination center” and “646,000+ vaccines administered.”
But it is the sign on the entrance doors that says it all: The Javits Center vaccination site is now closed.
Late this evening, the convention center ended its run as a mass vaccination site, almost exactly six months since it opened as a state location for people to get those shots in the arm.
Chelsea Bravo, a 12-year-old New Yorker, told PIX11 News when she heard Javits was closing today, she and her dad made a point to come here for a walk-in appointment.
“It was important for me to get my shot because I want to stay protected and I want to keep others safe,” said Bravo.
She got her first dose of Pfizer and for that second shot?
“They told us to go to a website to find other locations to get the vaccine now that this location is closed,” Bravo said.
The Javits Center has been heavily relied on during the COVID-19 crisis. At the height of the pandemic in the Spring of 2020, it was turned into a field hospital, in the event city hospitals were overrun with patients,
But it treated a smaller number of patients than anticipated and closed a short time later. Then in January this year, it was called upon again – opening as a round-the-clock site, capable of administering 10,000 shots a day. But the city’s needs have now changed.
“Our approach is to get farther out into the neighborhoods and communities,” said Dr. Dave Chokshi, the city’s Health Commissioner. “Particularly with our mobile options as well as partnering with pharmacies and doctors offices.”
WebMD’s chief medical officer Dr. John Whyte, says the approach needs to be in getting the vaccine directly to citizens.
“We needed Javits Center and places like Javits early on when we needed to vaccinate a large number of people quickly, they served the purpose,” said Whyte. “What’s now frustrating is even in New York City, there are certain areas of the city that are 30 to 35% vaccinated and other areas 80% vaccinated and the problem is when you’re averaging them together it looks pretty good but it’s almost two different cities.”
The new cases are almost entirely among people who haven’t gotten a shot.
“Ninety-nine percent of new cases are those unvaccinated,” adds Whyte. “That’s the real challenge we really need to drill down into those communities and find out what’s holding people back from getting vaccinated.”
The push to vaccinate is all the more important with the troubling variants, particularly the Delta variant and the increase in travel.
“I know everyone wants to be rid of COVID and feel the pandemic is over but it’s not and in many areas of the country we’re having a rise in cases,” said Whyte.
The CDC maintains the vaccines are effective against the variants. So called “breakthrough cases” do occur – that’s when fully vaccinated individuals still contract COVID.
“More than 160 million shots delivered and less than 10,000 cases of people getting COVID after being fully vaccinated,” added Whyte. “Most of those have been asymptomatic, very few have required hospitalizations that’s the good news.”
Breakthrough cases are rare and often the patient will likely experience mild symptoms. Medical experts advise that’s another reason to get vaccinated.
There’s also updated CDC guidance for vaccinated individuals.
“If you go and travel and even in an area with only 30 to 35% of people are vaccinated- when you return from that area, you do not need to test if you‘ve been vaccinated, you only test if you have symptoms,” said Whyte.