NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — As COVID vaccinations slowly open up to the general public, New York City is pledging to focus on the communities hardest hit by the coronavirus and continue working to educate the often skeptical residents to ease their concerns.

St. Albans resident Doreen Duncan got her first COVID vaccine with extra encouragement from her children.

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“My daughter, she’s a nurse, she took it. So that gave me the confidence,” Duncan told CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

As more of the general public becomes eligible, the city’s health commissioner told council members Tuesday, equity is at the center of the vaccine distribution efforts.

“By ensuring that we have enough vaccination locations in neighborhoods that have experienced ongoing disinvestment and inequities as well as high rates of COVID-19 infection and death,” said Dr. Dave Chokshi.

Especially Black, Hispanic and Latino communities.

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The plan includes partnering with local organizations, training health care providers about cultural sensitivities and disseminating information in different languages.

Still, in some of the hardest hit neighborhoods – like Elmhurst, Queens – there’s still hesitancy about getting the vaccine.

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City leaders say information – but more so empathy and humility – will be used to address concerns.

COVID VACCINE

The goal is to eliminate barriers.

“For people with disabilities, people who do not read or speak English, people who are undocumented, people with mental illness, people with substance use disorders and people who are homeless,” Chokshi said.

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As for Duncan, it’s more than a shot; it’s peace of mind.

“Now that I got the vaccine I feel more safe, more secure,” she said.

The health commissioner says high-risk inmates are now receiving the vaccine, but he hopes the state expands the eligibility to more people behind bars, as they are at risk for a potential outbreak.

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Aundrea Cline-Thomas