The COVID-19 vaccine could be administered to New York nursing home staffers and residents as early as Monday, officials said.
The arrival will be welcomed as a godsend, the head of the New York City metro region’s nursing home association said.
“The staff has got to believe. During the height of the pandemic, we saw so much loss and tragedy. We now have a new reality — a new way to fight COVID with the vaccine,” said Michael Balboni, president of the Greater New York Health Care Facilities Association, representing 235 nursing homes in and around New York City.
He said Dec. 21 is the planned starting date for batches of the vaccine to arrive at nursing homes. Under the program, the vaccine will be distributed and administered by pharmacies CVS and Walgreen.
Nursing homes were ravaged by COVID-19 when the outbreak first hit New York in the spring. More than 7,300 deaths at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are linked to the killer bug — though health analysts and critics said the death tally could be double that amount when factoring in gravely ill nursing home residents who died after being transported to hospitals.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo continues to fend off months of criticism that policy directives issued by his health department in the early days of the pandemic fueled outbreaks in nursing homes. One rescinded directive required nursing homes to accept recovering COVID-19 patients from hospitals, a controversial policy that the governor claimed followed federal guidance.
Dr. Michelle Chester from Northwell Health prepares to administer a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination at Long Island Jewish Medical Center.REUTERS
During a press briefing Wednesday, Cuomo said the next big batch of the Pfizer vaccine arriving in the state will go to nursing homes.
“The state has received 87,750 total doses to date. An additional 80,000 Pfizer vaccine doses will arrive in the next days to start the vaccination program for residents and staff at nursing homes,” the governor said.
Since many nursing homes don’t have the refrigeration to store the vaccine, the pharmacists will bring batches of the-COVID-19-fighting cocktail to the facilities on a staggered basis, Balboni said.
The nursing home group and the SEIU 1199 union — which represents nursing home staffers — are holding a joint webinar Wednesday to discuss the COVID-19 immunization plan.