FDA expected to authorize Pfizer vaccine this week; New York could receive initial allocation of 170,000 doses beginning this weekend
Nursing home residents, nursing home staff and 'high-risk' hospital workers prioritized first
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday updated New Yorkers on the state's vaccination distribution plan as the FDA is expected to authorize Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine this week. The state's vaccination distribution effort will focus on battling skepticism, include outreach to Black, brown and poor communities, as well as expedited distribution and administration. New York could receive its initial allocation of 170,000 vaccines as soon as this weekend, and expects further allocations in the following weeks.
"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," 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."
As outlined in New York's vaccination program, high-risk health care 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 the do for the flu vaccine. New York will issue guidance for hospitals to select which patient-facing staff should be prioritized as "high-risk" in line with state rules.
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 Dec. 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 (40% 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, 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:
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-19 response efforts will be eligible for the vaccine.