Hope is Here : Covid-19 Vaccine Roll-Out in Westchester


Hotline # 1-833-NYS-4-VAX (1-833-697-4829)

In what Governor Cuomo has called “the most ambitious governmental operation that has been undertaken, period,” New York State started vaccinating its residents against Covid-19 on December 14, 2020.  

Kathy Kenna, an ICU nurse, receives her vaccination.

The first Covid-19 vaccine to be authorized by the FDA in late 2020 was Pfizer/BioNTech’s, followed shortly after by Moderna’s. Both vaccines are highly effective (94-95%) at preventing symptomatic coronavirus infection and reducing the risk of severe Covid-19 disease. Both vaccines require two doses: a primer dose and then a booster shot administered 3-4 weeks later. Immunity is reached 1-2 weeks after the second dose.  


The vaccines were distributed to 292 sites statewide. The primary recipients during Phase I of the vaccination program were healthcare workers at high risk of Covid-19 exposure (emergency room workers, ICU staff and Pulmonary Department staff), followed by other healthcare workers, nursing home and congregate care residents and workers. Statewide, this comes to about 1.8 million people. In Sleepy HollowPhelps Hospital, part of the Northwell Health Network, was the first to administer the vaccine. ICU nurse Kathy Kenna made history as one of the first people to get the Covid-19 vaccine. According to Jeffrey Meade, Assistant Vice President of Operations at Phelps Hospital, the Northwell Network hopes to vaccinate 50,000 staff by the end of January.  


It is easy to understand why frontline healthcare workers are among the first to receive the vaccine. Not only are they exposed most often to the virus, but they also routinely risk their lives to save ours. We need them to be healthy, and they deserve to be first in line.  

Why are nursing homes included in the first phase of the rollout? Due to the communal nature of the environment and the residents’ age and underlying conditions, those living in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are at an increased risk of serious illness resulting from Covid-19. In New York State, as of late December 2020, 21% of the pandemic fatalities were linked to long-term facilities. While the national average of coronavirus case fatality rate is 2%, it is 13% in these facilities. The vulnerable need to be protected. 

Pat Banta, Regional Director of Health Services at Chelsea Senior Living

Pat Banta, Regional Director of Health Services at Chelsea Senior Living, said the residents and staff at The Chelsea at Greenburgh anxiously awaited the vaccine’s arrival. “We are trying to do everything we can to get our staff and residents vaccinated, she commented. 


Phase 2 of the vaccination program, set to begin late this monthwill prioritize essential workers and the “priority” general public (those with underlying health conditions who are most vulnerable to the disease). While Phase 1 was led by the State, Phase 2 will be led by plans created by designated “regional hubs”, in accordance with state guidelines. In Westchester, Westchester Medical Center is in charge of creating our regional implementation plan. They submitted their plan to the state in early January, and hope to begin Phase 2 as soon as possible 


We should not be afraid of obtaining the vaccine. We need to be afraid of Covid.” 

There is a lot we still don’t know, like how long immunity will last, or if the vaccine will prevent asymptomatic infection, or if those who are vaccinated and later become infected without symptoms can still spread the virus to others. As of now, there is not enough data to state whether it is safe for pregnant or lactating women to receive the vaccine. We don’t know when there will be a vaccine for children. We don’t yet know when the general public—meaning healthy adults without underlying conditions—will get vaccinated 

But here is what we do know: the vaccine is safe and highly effective. We will need at least 75% of the population to be vaccinated in order to reach herd immunity and stop transition. This will take, we hope, approximately 6-9 months. Governor Cuomo has stated that insurers must cover the cost of vaccination, assuring that all New Yorkers can receive the vaccine free of charge.  


During a Covid-19 briefing, Westchester County Executive George Latimer reminded us that the vaccine is not a cure for the disease. We must be vigilant and continue doing the things we’ve been told to do for months: wear a mask, wash your hands, and practice social distancing.  

Arlene Ramirez, a Northwell Health frontline employee, was one of the first to receive the Moderna vaccine on December 21, 2020. The virus made her very ill in the spring, and also took her father’s life. After receiving the vaccine, she said she felt emotional, but good. “This vaccine is hope. It’s hope that we will cease this pandemic. It’s hope that we will live a better life. We should not be afraid of obtaining the vaccine. We need to be afraid of Covid.”

To find out if you are eligible for the vaccine, and where you can get it, check out: https://am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/ This is the most up-to-date resource for our area.



  1. How will we know when we are eligible and where to go to get the vaccine?
    What are underlying conditions: I have had cancer, is that considered an underlying condition?
    I am 83+ years.

      1. This website does not inform persons over 75 where to obtain their covid vaccine when phase Ib starts tomorrow.

        There is no clear concise information for elderly westchester residents and that is a shame!!

  2. Especially moved by the part of the article about the healthcare worker who lost her father to the virus and is now encouraging the rest of us to get the vaccine.

  3. Do I have to receive the vaccine where I live (town / county / state of residence) when I meet the criteria for vaccination?

  4. I am 74 years old and quarantined with my daughter’s family here in Westchester county and want to know when and where I can obtain the Covid Vaccine.

  5. Will information be made to the public when Westchester Medical Center is ACTUALLY ready to vaccinate people over 75 years of age?

  6. Phase 1B including folks age 75 and over is eligible under state guidelines to receive the vaccine beginning January 11. Here is a link provided by the New York City government that provides locations in the five boroughs: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/covid/covid-19-vaccine-locations.page I have not been able to find something similar for Westchester County with its one million inhabitants. Perhaps the River Journal can reach out to Health Commissioner Sherlita Amler to obtain guidance on what Westchester Medical Center will be doing in our county.

      1. I am 83 years old with COPD living in a coop in Mount Vernon New York

        Would love to know How to get on list for appointment for vaccine

  7. I am 76 years old and live in Yonkers. I know I will be eligible for the Covid vaccine in Phase 1B. Please email me a list of locations where I will be able to get the vaccine and instructions on how I can al least get on a list. Thank you

  8. The problem in Westchester County is once you’ve been found eligible at the portal we are all directed to, there does not seem to be anything like the NYC vaccine hub site for us to make an appointment. I was eligible in 1A and have yet to find a place to get the vaccine.

  9. Can’t find information on how or where persons 75 and older can get an appointment. The state application is still saying only phase 1A is eligible and won’t give older people appointments. Pharmacies have no information. How can we make appointments?




    1. I am in Westchester County and the Westchester County Center is giving the vaccines and there are other places as well!!! Go to health.ny.gov! Follow all the prompts; when you get to SELECT A PLACE you must keep scrolling down until you find a date available.

  11. The Covid vaccine process is very confusing. Readers should call 1-888-364-3065 with questions. And should register with the county at this site. Residents currently have to meet the criteria and register. You can’t just walk into a hospital or vaccination site and get the shot. https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/JFX97LP

    There is also a site from the state that is helpful. dohweb@health.ny.gov.

    Towns, villages, the county are not able to issue guidelines or rules regarding the vaccination process. All decisions being made by NYS. My guess is that within the next week or two things will get better. Paul Feiner

  12. I am a 68 year old teacher with severe asthma, My domestic partner is 78 with lung issues. We live in westchester,
    Where and when can we get vaccine

    1. I am in Westchester County and the Westchester County Center is giving the vaccines and there are other places as well!!! Go to health.ny.gov! Follow all the prompts; when you get to SELECT A PLACE you must keep scrolling down until you find a date available.

  13. This total absence of information on how and particularly where group 1b can make an appointment for (let alone get) the covid vaccine in Westchester County is the very definition of bureaucracy!

  14. Here’s the latest update from Westchester County Executive George Latimer

    We are currently in Phase 1a and Phase 1b, which is the below list. However, this is fluid please check the New York State webpage to determine eligibility and find a vaccination location at https://am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/.

    · Teachers and education workers
    · First responders
    · Public safety workers
    · Public transit workers
    · People 75 and older
    · High-risk hospital workers (emergency room workers, ICU staff and Pulmonary Department staff)
    · Residents and staff at nursing homes and other congregate care facilities
    · Federally Qualified Health Center employees
    · EMS workers
    · Coroners, medical examiners and certain funeral workers
    · Staff and residents at OPWDD, OMH and OASAS facilities
    · Urgent Care providers
    · Individuals administering COVID-19 vaccines, including local health department staff
    · All Outpatient/Ambulatory front-line, high-risk health care workers of any age who provide direct in-person patient care
    · All staff who are in direct contact with patients (i.e., intake staff)
    · All front-line, high-risk public health workers who have direct contact with patients, including those conducting COVID-19 tests, handling COVID-19 specimens and COVID-19 vaccinations
    · Doctors who work in private medical practices and their staff
    · Doctors who work in hospital-affiliated medical practices and their staff
    · Doctors who work in public health clinics and their staff
    · Registered Nurses
    · Specialty medical practices of all types
    · Dentists and Orthodontists and their staff
    · Psychiatrists and Psychologists and their staff
    · Physical Therapists and their staff
    · Optometrists and their staff
    · Pharmacists and Pharmacy Aides
    · Home care workers
    · Hospice workers
    · Staff of nursing homes/skilled nursing facilities who did not receive COVID vaccination through the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program

    Beginning at 4 p.m. on Monday, January 11, the State COVID-19 Vaccination Hotline will open for scheduling vaccination appointments for eligible New Yorkers: 1-833-NYS-4-VAX (1-833-697-4829).

    Prior to receiving the vaccination, you must complete the New York State COVID-19 Vaccine Form. This form can be completed online at https://forms.ny.gov/s3/vaccine you will receive a submission ID.

    For more information about eligibility, phased distribution and more, visit https://covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/what-you-need-know.

  15. I have tried to make an appointment with Rite Aid or hospitals in Westchester and have had not success. We’re in Yorktown Heights. any help?

  16. See below for the latest information from Senator Stewart-Cousins.

    Dear Neighbor,
    The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine has made many anxious to get an appointment. I know this has not been an easy task, and many have found the process frustrating, as it can be difficult to go online, find a location offering appointments or get someone on the phone.

    My office is communicating with the Governor’s office about the issues of concern and we are hopeful the situation will approve. We want to make sure there are more vaccine locations and that you can actually make an appointment.
    However, we know some providers do not yet have the vaccine, and the Governor is working to get more vaccines from the federal government.

    The new COVID-19 Vaccination Hotline for scheduling vaccination appointments for eligible New Yorkers has been quite busy, and I know it’s hard to get through. Due to everyone trying to register at once, the system is overloaded. I do believe as the system expands, things will get easier in the coming weeks.

    If you should have any questions, please do not hesitate to call my office at (914) 423-4031 or email me at scousins@nysenate.gov. My staff is working tirelessly through this pandemic to help all of you, and we will continue to be in touch with the Governor’s office about the vaccination program and as we get more information will pass it on to you.

    For more information about vaccine eligibility, phased distribution and more, please visit: https://covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/what-you-need-know.

    Until next time,

    Andrea Stewart-Cousins
    New York State Senator, 35th District
    President Pro Tem, Majority Leader

  17. Will there be home visits available for vaccine? My 93 yr old mom, housebound, afraid to leave, My 60 yr old brother completely bed bound with MS live with me. I’ve been working, socially distancing from them, vaccinated last week. Can an inhome vaccination be arranged? We live in Yonkers.

    1. DOH

      I live in Westchester. I filled out the eligibility form and was given COVID vaccine locations in lower Westchester and the Bronx. When I tried to make an appointment either the sites had not gotten the supplies yet or there were no openings.
      I came back to the computer the next day and the sites ( close to my address) were changed
      The only close sites near me were the County Center in White Plains and Javis Center in NYC
      The Rite Aid Pharmacy in Hartsdale was not on the list any more nor were sites in the Bronx- instead there were alot of sites listed in Albany/Buffalo
      Can you please clear the upstate sites off my choice list ( for me to pick from) and replace the lower Westchester sites.
      Especially the local CVS stores which would be more convenient for me.
      Thank you so much.

    2. I too can find no information whatsoever on availability of home visits. Does anyone know who is doing so in Westchester County?

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About the Author: Caedra Scott-Flaherty