Northwell Health received its first round of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine this week and began administering the vaccine to hospital staff.
According to Derek Anderson, executive director of Northern Westchester Hospital, as Northwell Health receives the vaccine, it is distributed to its facilities, including NWH, based on New York state protocol.
“The first vaccine injections are going to hospital care team members who are occupationally at highest risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the hospital care setting, following those same state guidelines and criteria from the Department of Health,” he said.
The vaccine received Federal Emergency Use Authorization on Dec. 11. NWH physicians and staff who interact with COVID-19 patients frequently, started receiving the vaccine Tuesday, Dec. 15. Mr. Anderson said that NWH anticipates being able to extend a vaccine invitation to every team member by the end of February, but the actual schedule will be based on available vaccine supply.
“Vaccine availability is a fluid situation,” Mr. Anderson explained. “We hope to be able to offer all team members the vaccine by February, depending on supply. Frontline staff members who are at the highest risk for exposure qualify to receive the first set of vaccinations.”
Mr. Anderson said the vaccine is currently for emergency use only and will be distributed to the community based on the Department of Health criteria when there is adequate supply.
“We don’t yet know when that will be,” he said. As additional manufacturers secure approval, he added, the availability and timeline will continue to evolve.
“In this initial distribution, we do not have the supply or approval from the New York State Department of Health to vaccinate the general public,” said Mr. Anderson. “When it becomes available, we will coordinate with state officials to get the vaccine out safely and efficiently to the communities we serve.”
According to Mr. Anderson, Northwell Health is prepared to handle the shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine across its 23 hospitals. It has put in place freezers needed to store the Pfizer vaccine, which must be kept at 70 degrees below Celsius. In addition, “to account for flu and COVID-19 vaccinations, we have procured additional supplies, like alcohol swabs, gloves and syringes,” he said.
Mr. Anderson also revealed to The Record-Review that, while the numbers of COVID-19 patients had steadily increased from early November, “this past week we’ve seen the trend slow, with no overall increase.”
As of Wednesday, NWH had 37 COVID-19 positive patients, but the number changes hourly, as patients recover and are discharged from the hospital, said Mr. Anderson.
“We have cared for and discharged approximately 450 COVID-19 inpatients” in total, he said, though he noted that the reported total does not include cases that come through the Emergency Department that are discharged without needing an inpatient stay.
“We have the personal protective equipment and supplies needed to safely care for our patients and staff, and maintain the field hospital on campus so that we are fully prepared to accommodate surges and patient care needs,” Mr. Anderson added.