By Emily Drooby
On Tuesday Dec. 15, the COVID-19 vaccine rollout ramped up at Long Island Jewish Medical Center. The same hospital vaccinated the very first person in the United States. Now, their parent company, Northwell Health has vaccinated hundreds of their employees and it’s just the beginning.
“We’ve got a pretty robust plan and we are in full swing,” said Doctor David Battinelli, Senior VP and Chief Medical Officer for Northwell Health.
“There were clear refrigeration and freezer requirements, distribution requirements,” he explained. “Just because you get the vaccines, you have to have the needles, the syringes, all the extra equipment, the staff,” sharing about everything they had to do to prepare for the rollout.
Dr. Battineli says some of the hardest work went into figuring out who would get vaccinated first.
This round mostly went to frontline health care workers, especially those deemed high risk. Most hospitals are staggering how many people in a department get it at one time in case of side effects. Nursing home staff and residents will also get the vaccine soon.
It’s given out in two doses that are administered three weeks apart.
This first round of vaccinations was shipped out to hundreds of hospitals across the country on Sunday Dec. 13, just days after the Pfizer vaccine was authorized by the FDA for emergency use.
72,000 doses were sent to New York City, surrounding areas got about 45,000 doses. In the coming three weeks, New York City is expected to get another 465,000 doses. Nationally it’s estimated that close to 40 million doses will be given out by the end of 2020.
Distributing the vaccine isn’t easy because it has to be stored at negative 94 degrees Fahrenheit. From refrigeration problems to logistical issues, there’s a lot that could derail the delicate process. Top officials say they have contingency plans in place for everything.
While this is an exciting milestone, Dr. Battineli warns people still need to be cautious.
He said, “Although the light is there at the end of the tunnel, it’s several months long at a minimum so people need to make sure they do what they’re supposed to be doing at the same time we are getting the vaccine.”
He added that they’ve gotten innumerable calls from people asking when it’s going to be there turn. But because of limited distribution and that certain high-risk groups will get it first, most Americans won’t be able to get vaccinated until the spring or later.