The Vaccine Hurdles Older New Yorkers Face – The New York Times

New York Today

The Vaccine Hurdles Older New Yorkers Face

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It’s Friday. We’re off on Monday for Martin Luther King’s Birthday, but we’ll be back on Tuesday.

Weather: Cloudy, with an afternoon sprinkle; high in the upper 40s. Damp on Saturday, sunny but gusty on Sunday and partly sunny on Monday.

Alternate-side parking: In effect until Monday (Martin Luther King’s Birthday).


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Credit…Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

Roseline David, 80, spent nearly 19 hours trying to make a vaccination appointment.

This week, Ms. David repeatedly messaged her doctor, spent hours navigating the city’s website and called 311 only to be told someone would call her back or that appointments were filled.

Ms. David is not the only one struggling to get vaccinated in New York City. My colleague Sharon Otterman found that the city’s appointment system was rife with issues, from a confusing sign-up system to buggy websites to a lack of outreach. These hurdles are making it particularly hard for older New Yorkers to get vaccinated.

[The maddening red tape facing older people who want the vaccine.]

Here’s what you need to know:

Those who want to make an appointment confront multiple sign-up systems run by the city, state and private providers that work in parallel but do not link together. Some who work in senior services said that the systems were not sufficiently organized ahead of time.

On Tuesday, Dave Chokshi, the city’s health commissioner, said that the city was working to simplify the separate sign-up systems but that there was a reason for the complexity. He explained that each major player in the effort had its own medical records process that vaccination schedules must link to. Participating providers have their own scheduling systems, too.

Informing the most vulnerable New Yorkers about the vaccine has been its own challenge. Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez, commissioner for the Department for the Aging, said that roughly 60,000 calls were being made every week to help older adults make an appointment. Still, those who are not fluent in English or do not have access to a computer face particular barriers. There is a phone hotline, but wait times have been long.

Since New York broadened its eligibility criteria, officials have been increasingly worried about supply. On the state’s website, an alert reads, “The Federal Government has only given New York approximately 300,000 vaccines/week for over 7 million people who are eligible — as a result supply is very limited.”

On Wednesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “Right now, if we don’t get more vaccine, there literally will not be appointments available after the next couple of weeks.”

As of Thursday, New York City had distributed 38 percent of its current vaccine supply, with roughly 490,000 doses still available.


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Covid-19 Vaccines ›

Answers to Your Vaccine Questions

While the exact order of vaccine recipients may vary by state, most will likely put medical workers and residents of long-term care facilities first. If you want to understand how this decision is getting made, this article will help.

Life will return to normal only when society as a whole gains enough protection against the coronavirus. Once countries authorize a vaccine, they’ll only be able to vaccinate a few percent of their citizens at most in the first couple months. The unvaccinated majority will still remain vulnerable to getting infected. A growing number of coronavirus vaccines are showing robust protection against becoming sick. But it’s also possible for people to spread the virus without even knowing they’re infected because they experience only mild symptoms or none at all. Scientists don’t yet know if the vaccines also block the transmission of the coronavirus. So for the time being, even vaccinated people will need to wear masks, avoid indoor crowds, and so on. Once enough people get vaccinated, it will become very difficult for the coronavirus to find vulnerable people to infect. Depending on how quickly we as a society achieve that goal, life might start approaching something like normal by the fall 2021.

Yes, but not forever. The two vaccines that will potentially get authorized this month clearly protect people from getting sick with Covid-19. But the clinical trials that delivered these results were not designed to determine whether vaccinated people could still spread the coronavirus without developing symptoms. That remains a possibility. We know that people who are naturally infected by the coronavirus can spread it while they’re not experiencing any cough or other symptoms. Researchers will be intensely studying this question as the vaccines roll out. In the meantime, even vaccinated people will need to think of themselves as possible spreaders.

The Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine is delivered as a shot in the arm, like other typical vaccines. The injection won’t be any different from ones you’ve gotten before. Tens of thousands of people have already received the vaccines, and none of them have reported any serious health problems. But some of them have felt short-lived discomfort, including aches and flu-like symptoms that typically last a day. It’s possible that people may need to plan to take a day off work or school after the second shot. While these experiences aren’t pleasant, they are a good sign: they are the result of your own immune system encountering the vaccine and mounting a potent response that will provide long-lasting immunity.

No. The vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer use a genetic molecule to prime the immune system. That molecule, known as mRNA, is eventually destroyed by the body. The mRNA is packaged in an oily bubble that can fuse to a cell, allowing the molecule to slip in. The cell uses the mRNA to make proteins from the coronavirus, which can stimulate the immune system. At any moment, each of our cells may contain hundreds of thousands of mRNA molecules, which they produce in order to make proteins of their own. Once those proteins are made, our cells then shred the mRNA with special enzymes. The mRNA molecules our cells make can only survive a matter of minutes. The mRNA in vaccines is engineered to withstand the cell’s enzymes a bit longer, so that the cells can make extra virus proteins and prompt a stronger immune response. But the mRNA can only last for a few days at most before they are destroyed.

The Mini Crossword: Here is today’s puzzle.


Thousands of applications to the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program have experienced delays. [Gothamist]

An artist has been picked for a public art installation depicting the abolition movement at Willoughby Square Park in Brooklyn. [Brooklyn Paper]

Two-level apartments have become increasingly popular during the pandemic. [New York Post]


The Times’s Melissa Guerrero writes:

Although many performance spaces, museums and community centers are closed, people are finding creative ways to connect through virtual events and programs. Here are suggestions for maintaining a New York social life this weekend while keeping a safe distance from other people.

On Friday at 7 p.m., join Bob Gruen, a photographer and the author of “Right Place, Right Time: The Life of a Rock & Roll Photographer,for a talk about exploring the rock music scene through pictures.

Register for the free discussion on the event page.

Learn about Anthony Barboza, one of the early members of the Kamoinge Workshop, a collective of Black photographers in New York City, on Saturday at 11 a.m. Attendees will create a collaborative family portrait inspired by Mr. Barboza’s accordion-fold artists’ book.

Sign up for the free livestream on the event page.

On Saturday at 12:30 p.m., Sonya Ochshorn, a New York Transit Museum educator, discusses social movements and political activism that are connected to transit in New York City.

R.S.V.P. for free on the event page.

It’s Friday — expand your knowledge.


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Dear Diary:

I stepped out of an East Side funeral home into the bright June sunshine. I examined the white plastic bucket containing my mother’s ashes, and then I raised my arm to hail a cab.

One pulled up, but something made me wave it on. I stuffed the bucket into my backpack, loaded the pack onto my back and started walking.

For the next hour or so, I took my mother on a tour of some of the monuments of our New York lives.

Past the old Drake Hotel, where we would duck in to grab a handful of mini Swiss chocolate bars from the cavernous bowl in the lobby.

Past Saks Fifth Avenue, where we would squeeze into the tightly packed elevators operated by “elevator men” calling out the floors in deep baritones.

Past the MoMA sculpture garden, which my mother’s first New York apartment overlooked.

Past the Pierre Hotel, where my mother had conned the receptionist into giving her a room when she ran away from home as a teenager.

Past the long-gone Auto Pub in the General Motors Building, where my parents threw the best birthday party of my life.

Past the old Rumpelmayer’s on Central Park South, where my mother would take me for vanilla ice cream sodas on special days.

Into Central Park and onto the park drive, which my mother hectored many a taxi driver into taking to “save time.”

And, finally, home to the empty apartment on the Upper West Side.

Thanks, Mom, for sharing these things with me. How pleased I was that day to return the favor.

— David London


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