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About 30% of NY health care workers opt out of coronavirus vaccination; how that might affect you

Posted at 7:40 PM, Jan 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-06 14:02:50-05

NEW YORK — Both New York state and New York City on Tuesday laid out more of their plans to widen the number of people who get vaccinated against coronavirus. Both presentations, from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, left the distinct impression that it's going to be quite some time before members of the general public are eligible to get their shots.

For now, only people in what's called Phase 1A — medical professionals with frequent contact with high-risk patients — are eligible for the vaccine.

Elizabeth Johnson, a physical therapist who works with elderly patients, qualifies. PIX11 encountered her at the city's new pop-up vaccination center, in a health department building on 115th Street, between Third and Lexington avenues, in East Harlem. She was there getting her coronavirus shot.

"I didn't feel a thing, not even a pinch," she said, after receiving the inoculation.

She'd been eager to get vaccinated, but information from the state's and the city's health care leaders on Thursday showed that a significant segment of eligible health care workers don't feel the same way.

Dr. Mitchell Katz, the CEO of NYC Health and Hospitals, said that a sizable minority of medical workers have so far chosen to opt out of vaccination.

"I think around 30% is accurate," Katz said.

He added that almost all of the doctors in the city's 11 Health and Hospitals facilities had chosen to get the vaccine, but that it was a different story for nurses.

"Think of what the experience has been of the Health and Hospitals nurse over the last 10 months," Katz said, "How many times science has corrected itself, how many times it's turned out there was some new wrinkle. They've gone through every day of that."

De Blasio agreed that for now, the city has to move ahead and inoculate other people. He asked that the governor loosen the 1A guidelines, so that even more health care professionals become eligible now.

"Where there is willingness [to be vaccinated], that's where need to lean in, and where there's not yet willingness, we'll come back around," the mayor said, during his morning news briefing.

He also said that the city is planning on opening more vaccination sites by this coming weekend, with state approval. Those sites are scheduled to be at Bathgate Industrial Park in the Bronx, the Brooklyn Army Terminal Annex, and La Marqueta in East Harlem.

The mayor said that a site each in Queens and Staten Island will be announced soon.

For his part, Cuomo announced on Tuesday at his daily briefing that the state intends to create mass vaccination sites at the Javits Center and at CUNY and SUNY campuses.

When they'll be available, particularly to the general public, is not exactly clear. However, comments from the governor about how long it will take for those sites to inoculate all eligible medical workers offers some clue as to when other essential workers can start to be vaccinated.

"You need another four weeks," Cuomo said, "before you can get out of health care workers" and start vaccinating others, according to the governor.