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New COVID vaccination sites coming to Rochester, Yonkers, Buffalo and Albany. What to know

David Robinson
New York State Team

New COVID-19 mass-vaccination sites will open March 3 in the cities of Rochester, Yonkers, Albany and Buffalo as part of a push to reach more people of color, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.

The new sites, including the expansive former Kodak parking lot at the east end of the Driving Park bridge along St. Paul Street in Rochester and the National Guard recruiting center on Quincy Place in Yonkers, will each be capable of providing 1,000 shots per day, Cuomo said.

The federal government is supplying additional vaccine doses to the sites beyond its regular distribution to New York state. The four sites join previously announced locations at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn and York College in Queens that will each have a 3,000-shots per day capacity.

"It is a very big and aggressive effort to address vaccine hesitancy in the Black community," Cuomo said during a news briefing Wednesday, citing data showing more people of color are declining to take shots, at least temporarily.

Vaccinations at the new sites are being limited to people living in the communities, such as the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens. It wasn't immediately clear what residency restrictions would be applied to the sites in Rochester and Yonkers.

The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is being administered at Save Mor Drugs in Croton-on-Hudson Feb. 4, 2021.

More: Racial disparity in COVID-19 vaccinations in New York revealed in data. What to know

Federal workers and the U.S. Army will be staffing the vaccination sites along with National Guard and other state workers, Cuomo said. The Albany site will be at the Washington Avenue Armory center.

"The Armory's location right in downtown Albany is accessible by public transit and walkable from many of Albany's neighborhoods, making for an ideal central location for socially vulnerable communities as noted by Governor Cuomo," the center said in a statement.

Cuomo said the Buffalo site would be at the Delavan Grider Community Center.

Details regarding hours of operation and booking appointments at the new sites will be released in coming days, as well the prioritization of certain neighborhoods, state officials said Wednesday.

Mayors react to COVID vaccination sites

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren during a press conference at City Hall in Rochester Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021.

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren described the new sites as a promising step toward addressing racial and ethnic disparities in the vaccination effort, noting insufficient doses have been supplied thus far to reach the communities.

For example, only 200 vaccine doses were available this week to a pop-up vaccination site in Rochester established to serve the vulnerable population, Warren said in a statement.

"We have received hundreds of calls from seniors who are terrified because they don’t know how, or can’t make, an appointment to get the vaccine," she said. "We can and must act to help them."

Warren also urged state and county officials to allow city officials to work directly with health care providers to set up additional vaccination sites in Rochester aimed at promoting equitable access for people of color.

Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano on social media praised Cuomo and President Joe Biden "for bringing the COVID-19 vaccine directly to those most vulnerable to the virus." 

"We’ve long needed a vaccination hub in the (city of Yonkers) to better service disproportionately impacted portions of our community," he wrote on Twitter.

Racial disparity in COVID vaccine

A slide from Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Feb. 5, 2021, showed the racial disparity in vaccines.

The jointly run federal and state mass-vaccination sites aim to target communities hit hardest by COVID-19 infections and deaths, as well as lower vaccination rates, Cuomo said.

Racial and ethnic disparities in the vaccination push were revealed earlier this month when state officials released demographic data following a USA TODAY Network New York story that sourced experts raising concerns about the issue.

The Finger Lakes region, which includes Rochester, has seen African Americans receive 4.7% of COVID vaccines, despite the fact they account for 8.6% of the eligible population in the region, the latest state data on Tuesday show.

In contrast, white people in the Finger Lakes received nearly 90.9% of vaccines and account for 88.5% of the eligible population.

Hispanic or Latino people in the Finger Lakes received 2.8% of vaccines and account for 3.5% of the eligible population.

In the mid-Hudson region, which includes Yonkers, African Americans received 6.7% of COVID vaccines, despite the fact they account for 13.4% of the eligible population in the region, the latest state data show.

In contrast, white people in mid-Hudson received nearly 84.1% of vaccines and account for 80.3% of the eligible population.

Hispanic or Latino people in Mid-Hudson received 8.4% of vaccines and account for 12.9% of the eligible population.

The new mass-vaccination sites, however, aim to increase access and promote trust in the vaccine in communities of color with histories of discrimination and health inequality, state and federal officials said.

"The sites are offering extended hours to make vaccinations accessible and convenient for those who work late nights and early mornings and so importantly, making it clear that free, safe vaccines are available regardless of an individual's ability to pay or their immigration status," said Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, White House COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force chair.

New York State Team Editor Jon Campbell contributed to this report.

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David Robinson is the state health care reporter for the USA TODAY Network New York. He can be reached atdrobinson@gannett.com and followed on Twitter:@DrobinsonLoHud