New York could receive first batch of 170,000 Covid-19 vaccinations this weekend

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo yesterday updated New Yorkers on the state’s vaccination distribution plan as the FDA is expected to authorize Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine this week. New York could receive its initial allocation of 170,000 vaccines as soon as this weekend, and expects further allocations in the following weeks.

High-risk healthcare workers, nursing home residents and staff are prioritized first to receive the vaccine, followed by other long-term and congregate care staff and residents and EMS and other health care workers. Essential workers and the general population, starting with those who are at highest risk, will be vaccinated after these initial priority groups.

New York has opted into the federal government’s nursing home vaccination program. Under the federal program, employees of CVS and Walgreens will vaccinate residents and staff in these facilities, much like they do for the flu vaccine. New York State will issue guidance for hospitals to select which patient-facing staff should be prioritized as “high-risk” in line with state rules.

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If authorized by the FDA, the first delivery of Pfizer vaccines for the federal nursing home vaccination program could begin arriving next week, with the federal program slated to begin on December 21. New York is dedicating a portion of its initial allotment of 170,000 doses to this program. Portions of future state allocations will also be used to help complete the program and ensure all residents and staff are vaccinated.

‘High risk’ hospital workers eligible to receive a vaccination from the state’s initial allotment include emergency room workers, ICU staff and pulmonary department staff. As part of the effort to vaccinate ‘high risk’ hospital staff, the state has identified 90 locations across the state with requisite cold storage capabilities and those sites will receive enough doses for approximately 90,000 patient-facing hospital staff, or 40 percent of the entire patient-facing hospital workforce. The state expects all ‘high risk’ hospital staff will receive a vaccine by the end of week two. Staff at every hospital in New York State, regardless of storage capabilities, will have access to the first allocation of a vaccine.

The vaccine will be allocated on a regional basis. Regional estimated distributions are as follows:

  • MidHudson – 19,200
  • New York City -72,000
  • Long Island – 26,500
  • Capital Region – 7,850
  • North Country – 3,700
  • Mohawk Valley – 4,200
  • Central New York – 6,400
  • Southern Tier – 4,500
  • Finger Lakes – 11,150
  • Western New York – 14,500

Following the vaccination of ‘high risk’ health care workers, the priority will shift to all long-term and congregate care residents and staff, EMS and other health care workers. Essential workers and the general population will follow those groups, and those with the highest risk will be prioritized.

Additionally, the New York National Guard has been selected by the Department of Defense as one of 16 pilot programs across the nation to be part of the limited distribution of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to military personnel. Members of the New York Army and Air National Guard who serve as part of the state’s COVID response efforts will be eligible for the vaccine.

“Distributing the vaccine is a massive undertaking. I think frankly, people have not focused enough on the extent of what this undertaking means. I can’t think of a government operation that has been commenced that is more difficult and intricate than what governments will be asked to do here,” Governor Cuomo said. “The way the vaccine is going to work is the federal government will be responsible for the procurement and the distribution. The military is doing the transportation with private companies, and they will send it where we ask them to send it. We then set the priorities for not only where it goes, but who gets it. The first allocation is for nursing home residents, nursing home staff and high-risk health care workers. We’ve identified 90 regional centers that can keep the vaccine at the required temperature and they’ll act as distribution centers for that region. Pfizer’s vaccine is expected to be approved by the FDA tomorrow. Immediately after that, our New York State panel will convene and review and approve it. They’ve already been speaking to the FDA about the process.”