NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Federal Emergency Management Agency is stepping in to help open two new sites in Brooklyn and Queens dedicated to increasing vaccination rates among residents of those boroughs.
“The vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel. That is the weapon that’s going to win the war,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday morning.
More than 20,000 have already registered to get their shots at York College in Jamaica, Queens.
As CBS2’s John Dias reported, Dave Misthelel, 69, brought his own chair and waited outside York College for nearly two hours before his 8 a.m. vaccine appointment. He was the first in line to get the shot.
WATCH: Gov. Cuomo Visits COVID Vaccination Site At York College
“I trust the science and I want to take it because I want to walk free,” Misthelel said.
“Very emotional. I don’t know what was gonna happen to us in 2021, or we were ever going to be 2021, the way things are going,” said Williamsburg resident Aida Reyes.
Appointments had been so hard to come by, a pregnant Brooklyn couple stopped at the new site to get a vaccine on the way to the hospital.
— John Dias (@JohnBDias) February 24, 2021
“She’s a bit nervous. I think she’s more nervous to have the baby. So we’re about to drive over and we’re super excited. It’s a boy, 37 1/2 weeks,” said Bed-Stuy resident Nick Handy.
“So far, 6.1% vaccine rate. So I speak directly to my congregation and to all congregants when I say, ‘trust that vaccine,'” said Rev. Dr. Adolphus Lacey, of Bethany Baptist Church.
Until Saturday, the sites will be open to qualified New Yorkers living in underserved, minority communities in surrounding zip codes.
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“We are making sure people in communities that suffered the most get access to vaccination,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
Eventually, the sites will open up to all residents of each respective borough.
“The city is doing more things to get people vaccinated, especially in high-risk areas,” said Queens Village resident Matthew Posner.
“That should have been the way they did it in the first place,” another person said.
“COVID preyed on the health disparities and the comorbidities that were existing in communities that didn’t have enough health care service in the first place. So now when it comes to the vaccine, my point is correct. The injustice that you created during COVID, where you had more Blacks die, more Hispanics die.” Cuomo said.
Both are state FEMA sites and each can administer up to 3,000 shots a day. Making them the two largest vaccination centers in the state.
While Cuomo is optimistic about the new hubs, he said supply from Washington is still a problem.
“President Biden walked in, and the cupboard was bare for supply. To me, it’s the hangover of the President Trump legacy. He never handled COVID right. He lied about it, he denied it,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo says by the end of July, we’ll have enough vaccine for everyone in the country — but we first have to get to July.
Watch John Dias’ report —
The sites will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. People can stop in or make an appointment by calling 1-833-NYS-4-VAX (1-833-697-4829) or going online to New York’s ‘Am I Eligible’ website.
And there’s another FEMA vaccine site opening soon in Yonkers, which will start taking appointments Wednesday.
Vaccines will open first to residents in the Mount Vernon and Yonkers zip codes 10550, 10552, 10553, 10701, 10703, 10704 and 10705.
The site is scheduled to open on March 3 at the New York National Guard Armory.
Appointments will then open to all Westchester County residents.
The site expects to offer 1,000 doses per day.
“Transit workers have carried this city on their backs, and if we’re going to get back to normal, we have to step up and all get our shots,” New York City Transit Authority Interim President Sarah Feinberg said.
Starting Wednesday, the vaccine center will be open at 130 Livingston St. in Brooklyn through Sunday. The MTA hopes to give out 200 doses a day, or 1,000 a week.
This comes as vaccine makers Pfizer and Moderna told Congress to expect a big jump in supply very soon. Both companies pledged to have a combined 220 million doses available for shipment by the end of March.
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The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is expected to get emergency authorization soon, possibly arriving in states as early as next week. A Food and Drug Administration committee will meet Friday.
“Nothing could be more welcome than more vaccine,” said former CDC epidemiologist Dr. Robert Amler, of New York Medical College.
An FDA review of the vaccine found it to be safe and 85% effective against severe illness and 100% effective against COVID-19 deaths. Its overall effectiveness, however, drops to 66%, while Moderna and Pfizer’s vaccines offered 94% and 95% protection overall.
“What do these numbers, what do these these percentages really mean?” Layton asked.
“These are practically the same … Get the vaccine. Don’t fuss over what brand it is,” Amler said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci said it will likely take time to scale-up production, but some estimate there could be a supply of 100 million during the first half of the year.
“They’re not going to have a lot of doses on the first day. It’ll likely be relatively few, which will then scale up a lot more,” said Fauci, of the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases.
If approved, it would be the first single-dose shot available in the U.S.
Back in New York City, the MTA is providing special bus service from city housing complexes and community centers to the Brooklyn and Queens sites.
Meanwhile, Alissa Teigman, of Bergenfield, New Jersey, says she feels a huge sense of relief after being fully vaccinated, but she did have a small scare during a mammogram two weeks after her first dose.
“They had mentioned that I had enlarged lymph nodes … but the doctors were very assuring,” she said.
The COVID vaccine, like others, can cause an immune response like swollen lymph nodes, but enlarged lymph nodes can also be a sign of breast cancer.
Dr. Rebecca Gamss, of Hackensack University Medical Center, says it’s best to have your mammogram before your vaccine if you can.
“If that’s not possible, then it’s OK to wait four to six weeks after the second vaccine before you have your mammogram,” Gamss said. “But if you’re way overdue for your mammogram or if you have a problem, if you have a lump or pain, then you really shouldn’t be delaying your mammogram at all.”
CBS2’s Jessica Layton contributed to this report.