NY Pharmacies Can Now Give Vaccines To New Yorkers With Underlying Conditions

Pharmacies across New York state are now offering COVID-19 vaccine appointments to all New Yorkers who qualify as eligible due to underlying conditions, a major shift from their previous guidance, which restricted them to administering vaccines to people above 60 years old, childcare workers and school staffers.

Now anyone who currently qualifies as vaccine eligible due to underlying conditions can schedule an appointment at any pharmacy participating in the state’s vaccination rollout, depending on supply. Eligible NYC residents can check the city’s vaccine finder here to locate a nearby pharmacy with appointments available.

The state quietly announced the pharmacy expansion on March 17th, when the Department of Health expanded eligibility for a wider swath of New Yorkers, including many public-facing employees and those older than 60. However, the newest group of eligible New Yorkers are excluded from the pharmacy vaccine expansion—only those with co-morbidities or underlying conditions have been added to the list for pharmacies. Here’s a list of the health issues that qualify under New York state rules.

Those with underlying conditions who waited on line for hours at the Javits Center to get their first dose of vaccine may be wondering if they can schedule their second shot at their local pharmacy. The answer to that appears to be no, as city and state guidance explicitly states that “you must get your second dose at the same location as you received the first dose.” (And it seems like Javits Center has managed to shorten wait times again after more reports of hours-long lines last week.)

Meanwhile, 37 State Senate Democrats led by Senator Jeremy Cooney have signed a joint letter urging Governor Andrew Cuomo to let pharmacists administer the COVID vaccine to all eligible New Yorkers, arguing that the current policy creates confusion and exacerbates inequities in the vaccine rollout.

“For me, it’s an issue of equity and making sure every community has access to a vaccine,” Cooney told the local CBS affiliate in Albany. “We shouldn’t have people driving all over the state to find an appointment.”

The state DOH directive also orders vaccine providers to “keep a daily list of ‘stand by’ eligible individuals to be notified for vaccine administration on short notice. As soon as providers are aware that there are more doses than people to be vaccinated, ‘standby’ eligible individuals should be called.”

On Sunday the Health Department announced that over 7.5 million total COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered statewide, with more than 1 million shots given in the past week alone. The remaining week 14 allocation of 1,284,565 first and second doses from the federal government is expected to be entirely delivered Sunday, with week 15 allocation’s expected mid-week. According to the state’s tracking data, 4,099,225 million doses have been sent to NYC, with 3,425,643 shots, or 83.6%, administered.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced last week that the state would get a “supercharge” of 1.65 million COVID-19 vaccine doses a week by the end of April. On Friday, the nation surpassed 100 million vaccinations so far—40 days ahead of President Joe Biden’s goal to vaccinate 100 million people in his first 100 days in office.

Eligible New Yorkers who want to schedule an appointment at a state-run COVID-19 vaccination site should continue checking the  ‘Am I Eligible’ website; the state also suggests contacting your local health department, pharmacy, doctor, or hospital to schedule an appointment.