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More Than One of Every Four People Vaccinated in the City Don’t Live in the Five Boroughs

A New Yorker gets vaccinated at a city-run site in The Bronx, Jan. 10, 2020.
The city opened up a vaccination site in The Bronx, Jan. 10, 2020.
Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

More than a quarter of the people who have gotten vaccinated against the coronavirus in New York City live outside the five boroughs, an analysis by THE CITY shows.

All told, nearly 28% of the 216,014 people inoculated as of Monday reside in nearby New York counties or other states, according to the data posted on the city’s COVID-19 vaccine tracker.

Health care staffers and other eligible “essential workers” who toil in the city but live elsewhere can get the shots being given across the five boroughs.

On Tuesday, Mayor de Blasio said he’s concerned that others who do not fall under the 1A and 1B eligibility categories and who don’t work within city limits will try to sneak into one of the distribution centers set up by City Hall.

“They should be getting a shot at their local vaccination centers, whether it’s Nassau, Suffolk, Rockland, Westchester, Putnam, anywhere,” he told reporters.

The city’s two online registration systems require people to list where they live and will weed out those living outside the city who are not eligible, he said.

“It’s the real world — sometimes there’ll be a miss and someone will get through who shouldn’t have and wasn’t in one of those categories,” de Blasio added. “But the rule that’s been laid down is everyone gets vaccinated at one of our sites has to be in those appropriate categories, and generally speaking, the reservation process is going to catch that.”

He promised “tight-follow up” to ensure residency as required at each of the 160 vaccination sites scheduled to open this week.

As of Monday, people living in New York State but outside the city represented 17.6% of those vaccinated within the five boroughs. Some 7% reside in New Jersey and 0.7% are from Connecticut, the data shows. Another 2.5% are from elsewhere or their residence wasn’t known.

De Blasio noted the substantial number of nonresidents getting vaccinated in the city in a Jan. 4 letter to Vice President Mike Pence. The mayor asked Pence to “allocate additional vaccine doses to New York City and other commuter jurisdictions who are vaccinating more than their residents.”

‘Challenges and Confusion’

Cops, firefighters and most public school teachers can only live in the five boroughs or the six New York counties closest to the city. Medical staffers who work for private hospitals can generally reside where they please, as can certain city workers who fall under the “hard-to-recruit” category.

The head of the city’s largest municipal union said many of his members in the medical field do not live in the city.

“They are considered hard-to-recruit titles,” said Henry Garrido, executive director of District Council 37, who supported the city’s push to vaccinate all health care workers based in New York City regardless of where they reside.

“You are not just protecting the workers,” he said. “You are protecting the clients who in many cases are some of the most vulnerable.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio shakes hands with District Council 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido after announcing a contract agreement in 2019.
Mayor Bill de Blasio shakes hands with District Council 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido after announcing a contract agreement in 2019.
Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office

The geographic comingling of people being inoculated highlights the lack of federal coordination, said Dr. Bruce Y. Lee, a professor at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy.

A federal system could target broader locations like the tri-state area and create central distribution points, said Lee, who created computer forecasts used by federal officials to deal with the H1N1 flu pandemic in 2009.

The current vaccine system “can create challenges and confusion” for government officials trying to estimate the number of doses needed, he said.

“One place may not have enough vaccines and another place might have too many,” Lee added.

‘Scared to Death’

The virus is not restricted by geographic boundaries — and neither should the vaccine rollout, said Dr. Peter Hotez, a professor of pediatrics and molecular virology and microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine.

“I’m scared to death that we’re not going to reach targets of vaccinating the American people,” said Hotez, author of “Preventing the Next Pandemic: Vaccine Diplomacy in a Time of Anti-Science.”

“We’re backed into a corner. We’ve messed up every aspect of our response,” he said.

“And so anything that is on the pro side of getting people vaccinated, I’m for that. I’m all about reducing as many barriers as possible. And if that means some people are crossing state lines I’m all for that.”

New Yorkers who want the vaccine must register by phone (1-833-697-4829 or 1-877-829-4692) or via websites created by the state, the city or the city’s public health system.

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