YONKERS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A new Federal Emergency Management Agency vaccination site opened Wednesday in Westchester County.
It didn’t take long for thousands of people to sign up. The site is part of state and federal efforts to reach hard-hit communities, CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas reported.
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The site is located in southwest Yonkers. Like many communities of color, that area has been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Health advocates say you can’t talk about vaccine hesitancy if you’re not also providing access.
With each shot, there was a sigh of relief at the National Guard Armory.
“In many cases we always feel like we’re left out. But now at least you have the right as an individual to utilize your rights,” Yonkers resident Sarah Williams said.
The site is only for Mount Vernon and Yonkers residents who meet eligibility requirements.
“When this opened up, it was like a gift from God, you know, that we were able to come here,” resident Leona Senitta said.
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The armory is one one of six locations across New York run by the state and FEMA. It is open 12 hours a day, seven days a week.
“Everybody else is no appointments available and it was definitely difficult. So having this open up, it was quite painless,” Yonkers resident Chris Varghese said.
“I would have to drive five hours, like up to Plattsburgh. That was the closest one I could find,” Paula Yakout added.
Each FEMA site is strategically placed.
“This is an area that’s had very, very low uptake of vaccine. But I will tell you we have had more than 1,000 people each day who have volunteered to receive vaccine,” said Dr. Richard Stone, the acting undersecretary of health for the Veterans Health Administration.
It’s part of a broader effort to address equity in vaccine distribution, especially in hard-hit communities.
“We’re appreciative of having the one site, but I think we should have multiple sites,” Nepperham Community Center executive director Dr. Jim Bostic said.
Bostic is a pastor and saw so much death in the area, so he advocates with urgency in his roles on both state and local health equity task forces.
“If you really want to get at the crux of the problem, if you really want to get as many people vaccinated as you possibly can, I would think you would make it as convenient as possible,” Bostic said.
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Speaking of convenience, the state-run vaccination sites at Yankee Stadium and the Javits Center will be open 24/7. That’s thanks to the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine making tens of thousands of new appointments available.
But that’s only until the first shipment of the shot runs out.