(The Center Square) – When New York starts receiving doses of the COVID-19 vaccine later this month, state officials will give priority access to nursing home patients and staff and health care workers, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.
The state expects to receive 170,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine within two weeks. That’s the state’s share of the first batch, which is expected to cover about 20 million people nationwide. The Pfizer serum will require recipients to take two doses three weeks apart.
Additionally, the state expects to receive 40,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine later this month. Combined with the first Pfizer shipment, that should take care of the 85,000 nursing home residents and the 130,000 staffers responsible for their care. However, Cuomo said it’s highly likely not all residents or workers would be willing to take either initially, and the state won’t mandate vaccinations.
“We’re trying to do it the other way,” he said, referring to a public outreach and education campaign to bolster confidence in the vaccines.
Cuomo estimated such a plan could cost as much as $1 billion.
At the same time the state starts to ramp up the vaccine push, it’s also beginning to manage hospitals in earnest. There are 54,000 hospital beds statewide, and Cuomo said state officials’ goal is to keep them from becoming overwhelmed.
To help with the dual-track plan, Cuomo said he has once again recalled Larry Schwartz, his former secretary, to help with the coronavirus response. Schwartz previously oversaw the state’s initial efforts to address the personal protective equipment shortage experienced at the onset of the crisis.
Cuomo is also asking Linda Lacewell, the superintendent for the state’s Department of Financial Services, and Simonida Subotic, the state’s deputy secretary for economic development, to come back and serve on his task force as well.
Once the state starts receiving vaccines, it’ll continue getting them on a rolling basis, he added. Cuomo said the effort to vaccinate the nation will likely be the federal government’s largest undertaking since World War II.
New York has conducted about as many COVID-19 tests as the state’s population, and Cuomo said that’s taken nine months to accomplish.
“Very few people refuse a COVID test,” he said. “It’s not a frightening test. It’s a nasal swab. Now, you’re asking a person to take two vaccines, which is a more elaborate medical process and there’s distrust about the vaccine going in. So, this is going to be an incredibly challenging period to undertake both of these at the same time.”
This story originally appeared in The Center Square.