A COVID-19 vaccine is administered at Nassau County's first vaccine...

A COVID-19 vaccine is administered at Nassau County's first vaccine distribution center in Garden City on Jan. 5. Credit: Howard Schnapp

New York's COVID-19 vaccine distribution has been underway for nearly two months, with the initial doses going to hospital workers, health care employees and nursing home residents and staff. But experts say the process is moving slower than anticipated, even as the state has expanded eligibility to essential workers, including police and firefighters and people 65 and older.

GETTING COVID-19 VACCINES IN NY

Who qualifies for COVID-19 shots?

The State of New York has expended its eligibility list for vaccines against COVID-19 several times, expanding the groups of people included in the phases. This is a summary of the eligible groups. The following are the qualifying categories, as revised on March 29.

Group in Phase 1A

The state said about 2.1 million state residents belong in this group, including:

  • Health care workers at hospitals who interact with patients.
  • Residents and staff at nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
  • Dentists, psychologists and others deemed health care workers with direct contact with patients.
  • Employees of Federally Qualified Health Centers.
  • EMT volunteers and staff.
  • Coroners, medical examiners, some funeral workers.
  • Staff and residents of state facilities for people with developmental disabilities, mental health care and addiction services.
  • Employees at urgent care centers.
  • Individuals administering COVID-19 vaccines, including local health department staff.
  • Staff at ambulatory centers.
  • Home care and hospice workers.
  • Residents and staff at other congregate care facilities.

Group in Phase 1B

The state estimated about 3.2 million residents belong in this group, including:

  • People 75 years of age and older.
  • Teachers and education workers, including in-person college instructors, substitute teachers, student teachers, school administrators, paraprofessional staff, support staff, contractors in schools and bus drivers.
  • First responders, including police; firefighters; state police; sheriff’s offices; county, town and village police departments, and other law enforcement offices.
  • Public safety workers, including dispatchers and technicians.
  • Public transit workers, including airport, railroad, subway, bus, ferry and Port Authority employees.
  • Corrections officers.
  • Other sworn and civilian personnel, such as court and peace officers.
  • Grocery store workers dealing with the public.
  • Individuals living in homeless shelters.

Following federal recommendations:

Added at the discretion of local governments:

  • Taxi drivers.
  • Restaurant workers.
  • Residents of facilities for developmentally disabled people.
  • Hotel workers who interact with the public.

Other expansions of eligibility:

  • State residents age 60 and older (Since March 10, 2021).
  • “Public-facing” government and public employees (Since March 17, 2021).
  • Workers for not-for-profit organizations who provide “public-facing” services (Since March 17, 2021).
  • Building service workers who are “public-facing” employees (Since March 17, 2021).
  • State residents age 50 and older (Since March 23, 2021).

Since March 30, 2021:

Since April 6, 2021:

SOURCE: New York State, Northwell Health.

Here's more information about the state's coronavirus vaccine distribution efforts:

When could the general public get the vaccine in New York?

It could take months until the majority of the state's nearly 20 million residents become eligible for the vaccine, officials said. In Fauci's Newsday Live interview, he said he hoped vaccinations of health care workers and other priority groups would be completed by the end of March or early April, paving the way for the general public to start being inoculated.

How quickly do I need a second COVID-19 vaccine shot?

The second dose of the Pfizer vaccine should be taken 21 days after the first shot. For Moderna, it's 28 days. But the timing of the shots need not be exact. The CDC says the second shots can be given up to four days earlier or later.

Should I take the second dose from the same manufacturer as the first dose?

Yes. Health officials say that the vaccines were tested based on the premise that recipients would take both doses from the same manufacturer. State officials will only administer the same vaccine to recipients when they sign up for a second dose.

Who is administering the vaccine?

State and local health department officials, hospital staff and volunteer-based medical reserve corps are helping to administer the vaccine. Retired nurses at NYU Langone Hospital-Long Island in Mineola, Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital in Oceanside, Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow and Long Island Community Hospital in Patchogue are assisting in the effort.