New York nursing home residents across the state begin to get COVID vaccine

Denis Slattery, New York Daily News

ALBANY — Some of New York’s most vulnerable residents began getting vaccinated against COVID-19 on Monday as doses were doled out at nursing homes across the state.

A total of 618 nursing homes in the Empire State are enrolled in a federal vaccination program that will see drugstores send specialists into elder care facilities to inoculate residents and staff against the deadly virus over the coming weeks, Gov. Cuomo said.

The program is expected to take approximately six weeks, including three “clinical days” at each facility.

“Three days, they basically break up the residents and staff in three groups and they do it over three days,” the governor said during a press briefing in Albany. “Total program is supposed to be six weeks. We have worked with the pharmacies and the federal government.”

Cuomo said CVS will administer shots at 271 senior facilities while Walgreens will cover 253 sites. Other pharmacies will handle the remaining 94 facilities.

In addition to the nursing homes, Cuomo said other priority populations will be expanded this week to include EMS workers, federally qualified health center employees, funeral home workers, coroners, medical examiners and “other congregate care workers and residents.”

“This is entirely done by medical professionals,” Cuomo said. “We get the vaccine, we distribute the vaccine to a regional hub hospital. That hospital does the vaccinations for that region. We define the categories of people who are eligible; Phase 1A, Phase 1B, etc. and we follow federal advice on that.”

As of Monday, more than 38,000 doses had already been administered in the state.

Additionally, New York is getting 346,200 doses of a Moderna vaccine that recently won federal approval along with 120,000 more doses of the Pfizer inoculation this week.

The first Moderna shipment arrived in the city on Monday, with Arlene Ramirez, a registered nurse and director of patient care for the emergency department at Long Island Jewish Valley Stream Hospital, among the first to get the shot.

“Seeing what we saw, people clinging on to life, death after death, having endured all at the same time the death of my father-in-law, being severely ill myself, 36 days of my father being in the intensive care unit here, this vaccine is hope,” said Ramirez, 44, during a live-streamed administration of the Moderna vaccine.

“It’s hope we will cease this pandemic. It’s hope we will live a better life,” she added.

Moderna’s version can be stored at higher temperatures than the Pfizer vaccine, which officials have said could help with distribution.

Mike Dowling, the president and CEO of Northwell Health, where Ramirez works, said the health system gave roughly 6,000 people the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine last week.

And he applauded the arrival of the latest vaccine product, reiterating the extensive safety measures that led its approval.

“The vaccine is safe. It has gone through all of the proper processes ... and we encourage everybody to get vaccinated,” Dowling declared.

Meanwhile, Cuomo also announced the launch of a Vaccine Equity Task Force led by Secretary of State Rossana Rosado, Attorney General Letitia James, National Urban League President and CEO Marc Morial and Healthfirst President and CEO Pat Wang.

The committee will help ensure that vaccine distribution is done fairly and that minority and poor communities are prepared to administer inoculations.

“Their job is to come up with an operational logistic plan,” the governor said. “How do we get it into Black churches? Housing authorities? How do we get an education campaign to the Black community, Latino community, poor communities, saying, ‘This is safe.’ ”

With Michael Elsen-Rooney