After competing for decades, two pharmaceutical giants are joining forces to speed up supply.
“This is an example of getting it right. And as a result of this partnership, now the projection is 100 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine available nationwide by June,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday.
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The mayor was referring to Merck & Co. striking a deal with Johnson & Johnson to help make its single-dose vaccine. Merck plans to dedicate two factories to filling and producing doses.
The agreement was made amid concerns of production delays.
“The more of us that get a vaccine the soonest, the best it is for everyone,” one person told CBS2’s John Dias on Tuesday.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was 66% effective in a clinical trial, compared to the 90%-plus effectiveness of two-dose vaccines, like Moderna and Pfizer. The lower efficacy rate has some in minority communities skeptical, but the mayor and other leaders say it still prevents illness and death.
With a focus on equity, the city will send the new vaccines to sites in the most marginalized and hard-to-reach communities, targeting seniors, especially those who aren’t able to leave home.
“I have literally been, as a primary care doctor, counting the days until we receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which will be life saving for this population,” Dr. Ted Long, director of the city’s test and trace program, said.
Once the Johnson & Johnson vaccine arrives in New York, some mega sites, like the Javits Center, will be open 24/7.
Tuesday, however, hundreds arrived at the state-run site for their vaccine were forced to stand in line for up to four hours.
The state did not address this specific issue but did say as they expand to vaccinate more New Yorkers, they might notice some growing pains.
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City health officials stress their main concern is severe COVID cases — and all three vaccines stop those severe outcomes, CBS2’s Andrea Grymes reported.
“It doesn’t matter whether you get Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer or Moderna. The results are absolutely clear. Once you get vaccinated and you wait a few weeks for your body to build up that system, there are basically close to zero hospitalizations and absolutely zero deaths,” said Dr. Varma, the city’s senior advisor for public health.
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They also stress there’s nothing different New Yorkers need to do to respond to COVID variants. Dr. Anthony Fauci said one in particular likely started in Washington Heights in November.
“It started off in what is likely the Washington Heights section and has gone through multiple boroughs and is now gaining,” Fauci said.
It’s also showing it can evade some treatment. In Washington Heights, 26% of positive cases last week were the new B1526 strain. That’s up from 12% in February, creating some fear for people who live in the area.
“I don’t wanna be hospitalized,” one person said.
“It makes people more at risk, so it’s a little bit scary,” another person said.
Local lawmakers say the rate of the variant seems to be doubling every 12 days.
“I think this is a moment for real concern and precaution,” New York City Councilmember Mark Levine said.
Congress Adriano Espaillat said he is also very concerned.
“This new variant could very well control the spread and dominate it,” he said.
A network of Latino doctors is now calling for a mega vaccination site in Washington Heights.
“I’m also asking the federal government to provide vaccines to local community-based physicians so that people can go just downstairs,” Espaillat said.
Also Tuesday, de Blasio announced a new mega site will open Thursday in Co-Op City, the Bronx.
“Let’s face it, the Bronx has been very hard hit,” he said.
This comes as many non-city residents who can’t find appointments in their home towns are coming to state-run sites in the city.
CBS2’s John Dias found plenty of out-of-towners Tuesday.
“I live in Huntington, New York,” one person said.
“I live in Westchester,” said another.
“We live out on Long Island – Greenlawn,” another person added.
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In their defense, they said they would rather stay local, but there aren’t many options.
“We couldn’t get one closer to us,” one person said. “They should open up more sites on Long Island.”
“It’s embarrassing how badly the whole vaccination thing is being run,” another person added.
The mayor said he plans on getting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine when it’s his turn.
“I want to show people it’s the right choice. When you get one shot and it’s done, and you’re protected, your life is protected, you’re not gonna end up in the hospital. That’s the name of the game,” de Blasio said.
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden is directing every state to count educators as essential with hopes of fully opening schools.
“We want every educator, school staff member, child care worker to receive at least one shot by the end of the month of March,” he said Tuesday.
“I am very encouraged by the prioritization of teachers right now, but there is so much more that needs to happen,” said Annie Tan, a special education teacher in Sunset Park.
She told CBS2’s Jessica Layton she’s not comfortable being fully back in the classroom even if her colleagues are fully vaccinated.
“We are still in a place where community transmission is really high,” she said. “And we still don’t know about these variants going around.”
CBS2’s Andrea Grymes and Jessica Layton contributed to this report