What to Know
- The FDA’s vaccine advisory panel is meeting Thursday to scrutinize Pfizer’s data for any red flags; that’s likely the last step before a U.S. decision to begin shipping millions of doses
- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state could receive its first deliveries of COVID-19 vaccine in the coming days as the pandemic is landing more patients into hospitals across the state
- New York City is slated to receive an estimated 72,000 doses — the most for any region in the state. Long Island will receive the second highest amount of doses with 26,500
New York state could get its first Pfizer vaccine doses as early as this weekend if the FDA grants the pharmaceutical company’s emergency use request Thursday as expected. Additional allocations are expected from Pfizer later this month — a potential breath of relief as officials combat soaring COVID hospitalization rates.
As of Thursday, New York had nearly 5,000 hospitalized for the virus statewide, nowhere near the 19,000 admitted at the peak of the crisis in April but a steep increase over recent months for freshly beleaguered hospital staff and facilities.
The state has averaged 50 daily new cases per 100,000 residents over the past seven days — hitting 10,600 on Wednesday. Daily cases are not the core indicator for states this time around, given the testing-related increases — but some portion of new daily cases do translate into hospital stays. Some of the admissions could be extensive, as was the case with ventilator patients in the spring.
“This is a hospital capacity crisis, and more and more, it’s becoming a greater crisis for hospitals because their capacity is further diminished. This is the weapon that will win the war,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said of the vaccine Wednesday.
Cuomo said the state’s independent review panel will assess the vaccine and he expects to begin deploying the initial Pfizer delivery of 170,000 doses as early as next week. High-risk hospital and nursing home staff and patients will get it first, followed by, first responders, essential workers and then the general public.
The state has opted into a federal program that will involve CVS and Walgreen’s administering vaccines by Dec. 21. It has 90 regional distribution centers capable of cold storage needed for storing vaccines, according to Cuomo.
New York City will get the majority of the state’s initial allocations, Cuomo said. Mayor Bill de Blasio said his administration will move quickly to vaccinate high-risk healthcare workers and the estimated 100,000 people who either are residents of long-term care facilities in the city or work at them.
“That whole group of 100,000 people needs to be reached. We’re going to move that very, very quickly. That’s a very finite universe,” he said.
Other high-priority groups will be vaccinated soon afterward, de Blasio said, but no one should try to secure a vaccine before their turn.
Dr. Dave Chokshi, the city’s health commissioner, said that 54 of the city’s 55 acute-care hospitals either have the ultracold freezers needed to store the Pfizer vaccine or have access to ultracold storage through other facilities in their networks. The one hospital that lacks ultracold storage capacity will wait to vaccinate patients until the Moderna vaccine, which does not require a special freezer, is distributed. The FDA takes up that emergency request next week.
While the vaccine is a light at the end of the tunnel, Cuomo and others have been quick to caution the tunnel is long. The governor has said in recent weeks that experts say 75 percent to 85 percent of the population must be vaccinated in order for the economy to return to some semblance of normalcy. Even if the state received 300,000 vaccine doses by year’s end and had 300,000 people willing to take them immediately, that’s just 1.5 percent of New York’s population.
Daily Percentage of Positive Tests by New York Region
Gov. Andrew Cuomo breaks the state into 10 regions for testing purposes and tracks positivity rates to identify potential hotspots. Here’s the latest tracking data by region and for the five boroughs. For the latest county-level results statewide, click here
The willingness of a highly skeptical public to take the vaccine is itself far from a given. Communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by the ongoing pandemic and are disproportionately skeptical of a vaccine. New York state and city have launched aggressive public education campaigns to help dispel myths and ensure public buy-in, without which the program won’t work.
The FDA’s vaccine advisory panel is meeting Thursday to scrutinize Pfizer’s data for any red flags. That is likely the last step before a U.S. decision to begin shipping millions of doses of the shot across the country.
FDA has said results from Pfizer’s large, ongoing study showed the shot, which was co-developed with Germany’s BioNTech, was more than 90 percent effective across people of different ages, races and underlying health conditions, including diabetes and obesity. No major safety issues were uncovered; common vaccine-related side effects like fever, fatigue and injection site pain were tolerable.
The public review comes as U.K. regulators investigate two apparent cases of allergic reaction to the vaccine. Medical experts say that while reactions are rare, they aren’t unheard of for vaccines of any kind and are usually short-lived.