The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has been given to 5,200 New York City healthcare workers in the five days since vaccinations began in the state, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Thursday.
On Sunday, Queens ICU nurse Sandra Lindsay became the first person in the state to be inoculated against the virus after the state received its first shipment of 170,000 vaccine doses. Since then, New York City has received 42,900 doses of the vaccine.
Yesterday, two workers at Elmhurst Hospital, Veronica Delgado, lead physician’s assistant in the hospital’s emergency room and William Kelly, a service aid in the environmental service department, became the first public hospital staffers in the city to receive the first of the vaccine’s two shots.
Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines require that a patient receive one shot and then a second shot three weeks later. Pfizer claims trials have proven the vaccine is 95% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 while Moderna says its vaccine, expected to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration by the end of the week, is 94.1% effective.
“Talk about an amazing turnaround,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “The vaccine being given to the very same people who saved lives by the thousands 10 months ago.” No neighborhood has been untouched by the virus during the pandemic, but few places suffered like Elmhurst in the spring where coronavirus cases quickly overwhelmed the hospital.
At the moment, only frontline health care workers with a “high risk” of being exposed to the virus and nursing home residents and staffers can receive a dose of the vaccine. Those next in line to receive the vaccine per New York state’s distribution plan are essential workers and members of the general public with underlying health conditions.
On Tuesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo said the state could enter Phase 2 of his vaccine distribution plan late next month and announced local hospitals will work with local community leaders to create regional vaccination hubs to help speed up the distribution process. Hospitals have until early January to submit a distribution to plan to the state Health Department for approval.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been proven to be safe overall although some people who participated in clinical trials for the vaccine reported suffering from side effects. Recently, two healthcare workers at the same hospital in Alaska reported experiencing severe reactions moments after receiving the vaccine, The New York Times reported.
Health officials have not heard of any serious adverse reaction to the vaccine, Health Commission Dr. Dave Chokshi said Thursday. Despite the very low chances of suffering a serious reaction, those that receive the vaccine remain under observation for 15 to 30 minutes as an extra precaution, Chokshi added.