President Biden Lays Out Ambitious COVID Vaccine Plan While Concern About New York Variant Grows

President Joe Biden is laying out his most ambitious COVID vaccine plan yet, and he wants all educators to be vaccinated by the end of this month in an effort to open schools as soon as possible; CBS2's Jessica Layton reports.

Video Transcript

KRISTINE JOHNSON: We begin with that optimistic news from Washington, as the country continues on the road to reopening.

MAURICE DUBOIS: The president also ordering all educators vaccinated by the end of this month, in an effort to open schools as soon as possible. CBS 2's Jessica Layton, live at the Javits Center on the West Side with more. Jessica?

JESSICA LAYTON: Well, Kristina, Maurice, once the J&J vaccine arrives here in New York, some mega-sites, like the Javits Center here on the West Side, will be open all hours of the day. We're talking 24/7. But the hundreds who came here today for their vaccine to the state-run site still wondering what went so wrong that they were forced to stand in a huge line up to four hours waiting for their shot. It was absolutely packed.

Now, the state tonight did not address this specific issue, but did say as they expand to vaccinate more New Yorkers, people might notice some growing pains. This at a time President Biden is hoping a surge in supply will help get every American vaccinated by May.

It's a rare partnership between rivals. Pharmaceutical company Merck will help with production of Johnson and Johnson's single-dose vaccine. President Biden also directed every state to count educators as essential, with hopes of fully opening schools.

JOE BIDEN: We want every educator, school staff member, child care worker to receive at least one shot by the end of the month of March.

ANNIE TAN: I am very encouraged by the prioritization of teachers right now. But it is-- there's so much more that needs to happen.

JESSICA LAYTON: Annie Tan is a special education teacher in Sunset Park, not comfortable being fully back in the classroom even if her colleagues are fully vaccinated.

ANNIE TAN: We still are in a place where community transmission is really high, and we still don't know about these variants going around.

JESSICA LAYTON: A new variant spreading rapidly in New York is concerning, because it's showing it can evade some treatment. In Washington Heights, where it was first detected, 26% of positive cases last week were the new B1526 strain. That's up from 12% in February. Added fear for people who live here.

- I don't want to be hospitalized.

- It makes people [? ? ?] so it's a little bit scary.

JESSICA LAYTON: It also caught the attention of Dr. Anthony Fauci.

ANTHONY FAUCI: We certainly are taking the New York variant, the 526, very seriously.

JESSICA LAYTON: Local lawmakers say the rate of the variant seems to be doubling every 12 days.

MARK LEVINE: I think this is a moment for real concern and precaution.

JESSICA LAYTON: Congressman Adriano Espaillat is asking the federal government to send vaccine to community doctors here and mom-and-pop pharmacies, so people will feel more comfortable getting the shot before this virus mutation takes over.

ADRIANO ESPAILLAT: This new variant could very well control the spread and dominate it.

JESSICA LAYTON: And with that, a lot of people are saying they're worried tonight about how well the vaccine will protect against that new variant here in New York City. Doctors say we should know more in a couple of weeks. Live from the West Side tonight, Jessica Layton, CBS 2 News.