All state-run COVID-19 mass vaccination sites across New York will shutter by the end of the month, officials said, with SUNY-Old Westbury closing down on June 24th.
State officials said the large sites are no longer necessary because people are getting vaccinated at pharmacies, doctor’s offices and other smaller medical facilities.
“As vaccines have become widely available, demand at state-run sites has declined precipitously,” a state Health Department spokesperson said in a statement. “With the broad network of providers and vaccine access, the cost of operating state-run sites is no longer warranted.”
Officials said over 5.4 million doses of vaccine have been administered at the state's mass vaccination sites. Over 163,000 doses were administered at the SUNY Old Westbury location.
At its busiest, 2,500 doses a day were being administered at SUNY Old Westbury, state officials said. That dropped to about 49 vaccinations per day in April and May and then 27 vaccinations a day more recently.
The state said a network of more than 8,500 providers currently delivers the majority of vaccines statewide.
The mass vaccination centers were developed at locations such as Jones Beach, Stony Brook University and Suffolk County Community College on Long Island and the Javits Center in Manhattan in early 2021 to accommodate the number of people seeking the COVID-19 vaccine when it first became available.
After an initial rush in the winter and spring of 2021, attendance at these sites slowed down, leading the state to close Jones Beach, Suffolk County Community College and Stony Brook Southampton by July 2021.
Sean Clouston, an associate professor of public health at Stony Brook University, agreed that the mass vaccination sites have "probably run their course and are no longer as useful," and noted most people can more easily access local pharmacies.
"The huge number of people needed to get their vaccination as quickly as possible while responding to the epidemic was a critical step in this process… but it was always meant to be temporary," Clouston said. "People are comfortable talking to their pharmacist and go there for a lot of other reasons as well. "
Martine Hackett, director of public health programs at Hofstra University, said the closing of all mass vaccination sites in the state is a "major turning point" in the fight against COVID-19.
"Over the last two years, we have gone from uncertainty about how to control the spread of the virus to the limited availability of vaccines, to mass vaccination sites to vaccines for all ages and boosters," Hackett said. "The mass vaccination sites across New York State represented a true public health effort to reduce hospitalization and deaths and for the most part, it worked very well."
Hackett also noted the elimination of mass vaccination sites gives parents of children under the age of 5, who only became eligible for vaccination in the last few days, one less option.
"As long as the supply of doses and booster shots remain steady at other locations, the public should feel confident knowing that our public health systems came through," she said.
Vaccinations will be administered at the SUNY-Old Westbury site until it officially closes at 6:30 p.m. on June 24.
The vaccination site at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens is slated to close June 30.