Who will receive New York's COVID-19 vaccines first?

Posted at 2:04 PM, Dec 02, 2020

NEW YORK (WKBW) — During a COVID-19 update Wedneday New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced 170,000 COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer) are expected to be delivered to NYS on December 15 if all safety and efficacy approvals are granted.

The governor also said the state expects additional allocations of Pfizer's vaccine and initial allocations of Moderna's vaccine later this month.

So who is going to receive the vaccine first?

According to Cuomo, NYS agrees with the CDC recommendation for a vaccination program that prioritizes health care workers and residents of long term care facilities.

During the press conference officials said there are about 85,0000 nursing home residents and 130,000 nursing home staff members throughout the state, and they would be the first to receive the vaccine.

Dr. Thomas Russo, Chief of UB's Division of Infectious Diseases, said vaccinating everyone who wants to be vaccinated will take time.

“We need to start somewhere, and this is a great start, and we’re gonna learn how to most efficiently proceed with this process, and as part of that we’ll be starting to afford protections for these most vulnerable individuals,” Russo said.

Although only 170,000 doses of the vaccine are coming in the first delivery, Cuomo said the state expects there will be nursing home staff members and residents who opt not to receive the vaccine. This could mean the first batch of doses would be enough to cover all nursing homes.

“So you might be able to do it on just the 170, for sure you’ll be able to do it with the tranche of Moderna, which is supposed to be right around the corner," Cuomo said. "And then they say there will be a constant every 7-10 days another shipment, another shipment, another shipment, so it will be on a rolling basis.’

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses a few weeks apart.

“Just because you get vaccinated let's say on Dec.15th, it doesn’t mean you’re protected from the new coronavirus," Russo said. "It would really be maximum protection will occur five weeks later.”

Following the nursing home staff and residents officials said the next group to receive the vaccine will be congregate care facilities.

Next, health care workers will receive the vaccine with priority on those who work in emergency rooms and intensive care units in direct contact with COVID-19 patients.

There are about 600,000 health care workers across the state, according to Cuomo.

There was no further discussion on who would receive the vaccine following health care workers, but according to New York's COVID-19 vaccine administration program draft that was released in October, the next priority groups include first responders, various sections of essential workers, people with underlying health conditions, and those over 65 years old. Healthy adults and children are in the last phase.

Russo estimated healthy adults will begin receiving the vaccine in April or May.

He said the initial vaccine trials did not include children, but there are trials in the early stages right now that include children.

"The thought process is, that for any vaccine, we want to make sure it's safe, and particularly for our children," Russo said. "So lets assess the efficacy and safety initially in adults, they will be the initial groups vaccinated, and if it continues to look as good as we think that's when we will start vaccinating our children."

Cuomo said the state needs help from the federal government with a vaccine program, and estimates the distribution in New York could cost $1 billion.

Stephen Hanse, President and CEO of the New York State Health Facilities Association and the New York State Center for Assisted Living (NYSHFA/NYSCAL) issued the following statement on the governor's vaccine announcement:

“We applaud Governor Cuomo for ensuring that nursing home residents and their staff will receive the first distributions of a COVID-19 vaccination. New York’s health care system is under attack from the COVID-19 pandemic. This virus is the greatest public health threat our country has faced in most of our lifetimes and the Governor’s announcement today acknowledges that our residents and dedicated health care workers are on the front line of this pandemic.

“The COVID-19 vaccination plan announced today by the Governor for nursing home residents and staff is thoughtful and will safeguard residents, staff and communities throughout New York.”