New Yorkers with chronic health conditions that made them newly eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine flooded a state website and call center Sunday morning, leaving many unable to immediately schedule appointments at mass vaccination centers.
State officials said on Sunday that 73,000 appointments had been scheduled as of 11:30 a.m., while 500,000 people went through an online eligibility screening tool needed to make appointments. Thousands were in virtual waiting rooms that can hold up to 8,000 people per vaccination site. Once those waiting rooms are full, people attempting to schedule appointments are told to try again later.
Richard Azzopardi, a senior adviser to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, said demand was high, but “our infrastructure has remained up and intact.” He said that the state’s ability to make appointments depended on the vaccine supply, which is steadily increasing.
Officials said the new criteria, which include chronic health conditions like obesity and hypertension, made four million more New Yorkers eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine. They join a growing number of people in the state who are eligible for the vaccine despite a shortage in supply.
Those who are now eligible include adults who have certain health conditions that may increase their risk of severe illness or death from the coronavirus. Aside from obesity and hypertension, other conditions that would qualify New Yorkers for the vaccine include pulmonary diseases and cancer, Mr. Cuomo announced this month. He also made pregnancy a qualifying condition.
Appointments for people who are in this group can be scheduled for as early as Monday, though most people will probably face a long wait because vaccine doses are scarce now. New Yorkers must provide proof of their condition with a doctor’s note, signed certification or medical documentation, Mr. Cuomo said.
“While this is a great step forward in ensuring the most vulnerable among us have access to this lifesaving vaccine, it’s no secret that any time you’re dealing with a resource this scarce, there are going to be attempts to commit fraud and game the systems,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement.
In New York State, about 10 percent of the population has received its first dose, according to data gathered by The New York Times. With the new criteria, about 11 million people are now eligible in the state, including people ages 65 and older, health care workers and teachers — over half the state population.
New York City recently opened mass vaccination sites at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx and Citi Field in Queens to better reach communities hit hard by the virus. The state and federal government also announced last week that the Federal Emergency Management Agency would open vaccination sites at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn and York College in Queens.
To check on eligibility and schedule an appointment, New Yorkers can complete a prescreening on the state’s website. They can also call the state’s vaccination hotline at 1-833-NYS-4VAX (1-833-697-4829) for more information about vaccine appointments.