The first of the COVID-19 vaccines will arrive in New York City as early as December 15 with high-risk health care workers and nursing home residents and staff to receive the first doses.
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will be rolled out this month, with Pfizer’s arriving on December 15 and Moderna’s on December 22, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced at his daily press briefing on Thursday.
The city is working with Gov. Cuomo’s office on a distribution plan, which will include over 400,000 doses in the month of the December.
The mayor said it will take at least a few months before the vaccine can be widely distributed to all New Yorkers, with priority going to those in need, including those living in the neighborhoods most deeply affected by the coronavirus.
“But we’re going to, throughout this process, work on the fastest and most effective distribution because the faster we can move and the more we can educate people and the more we can get people involved, the more people who will be safe,” the mayor said.
The announcement comes as the city's coronavirus indicators continue to move in the wrong direction, according to the mayor. As of Thursday, the daily positivity rate stood at 3.9%, the seven-day average was at 5.19% and daily hospital admissions for suspected coronavirus was at 174, just below the 200 threshold.
"It's quite clear at this point that the this second wave is unfortunately right upon us," Mayor de Blasio said.
The mayor said the one promising sign is that city ICUs are not seeing the stress they did back in the spring.
As for the vaccine, the health department has the ability to receive, store and ship up to 320,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine as well as millions of doses of the Moderna one, according to the city’s health commissioner, Dr. Dave Chokshi.
And over 50 hospitals have access to ultra-cold storage or will have special freezers delivered soon for a total citywide storage capacity of at least 1.5 million doses, he said.
Still, Dr. Chokshi cautioned that: “The process of turning a vaccine into a vaccination will be a challenge — a formidable one.”
The city will utilize its immunization registry to monitor inventory and administration to ensure equitable distribution of the vaccine, he said.
“This registry is like the air traffic control of vaccine distribution,” he said about the database that includes the participation of thousands of health care providers who already report vaccines like the flu shot.
Using this database, the city will be able to assess in real time which neighborhoods have a low uptake of the vaccine and pivot distribution efforts to prioritize those areas.
“But this is a marathon, not a sprint and there is a long, long road ahead of us,” said Dr. Chokshi said. “Building trust has to be integral to our preparation as integral as storage and inventory.”
In the coming months, the city will partner with community organizers, faith leaders and local clinicians to help build that trust, he said.
The mayor also announced the establishment of a Pandemic Response Institute, which will help create a blueprint for addressing this kind of crisis in the future. The center will be housed in the Alexandria Center for Life Science initially and will focus on outbreak detection research, developing best practices and training programs for pandemic response, and piloting new community-based partnership models.
“We know that research is necessary in an unprecedented way,” the mayor said. “We know that during this crisis there was so much catching up that had to be done. That work can be done in many ways in advance going forward.”