Virus vaccine begins regional distribution
FINGER LAKES--As the limited distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine has already begun in Yates and Schuyler Counties, local health officials say it will be months before the vaccine is available for the general public. The vaccine will first be distributed based upon tiers of vulnerability created by the Centers for Disease Control with input from the state department of health.
"I think the important thing is for people to know the vaccine is going to be distributed over a period of time," said Deborah Minor, health director for both Yates and Schuyler County. "So locally as soon as we have a vaccine to get out we will get it out. But in the interim people need to understand that all other measures of protecting yourself, mask-wearing, social distancing, are as important now as it was six months ago."
As mandated by the CDC, DOH and the Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, vaccine distribution is based on tiers of exposure and vulnerability factors that include pre-existing medical conditions and age.
"Some employees and residents at long-term healthcare facilities such as skilled nursing will receive it first followed by local medical professionals such as intensive care unit doctors and nurses and respiratory specialists... my best guess is that it will be months before the healthy general public will be able to get the vaccine," Minor said.
Minor added local planning has already begun and the first tier of distribution has already started.
"The vaccine...has already been administered locally," Minor stated. "Through a partnership with the federal government and Walgreens and CVS, medical professionals will go to long-term facilities and administer it on-site. Local hospitals will also be able to receive and administer vaccines to health care workers as is allowed under the current guidelines."
Cayuga Health reported health workers began receiving the Pfizer vaccine last week, while on Monday, Dec. 21, the Finger Lakes Veterans Affairs Administration reported distributing the Moderna version. Both vaccines are over 90 percent effective and are administered in two shots.
As distribution is in the early stages and is being handled by outside parties, Minor mentioned local health departments will soon be involved.
"Once there is enough vaccine to begin distributing it to the general public the local health departments (are expected) to be involved in helping administer it to as many people as possible," Minor said.
It has been reported that six million doses of the COVID vaccine are scheduled to be distributed shortly before Christmas to roughly 4,000 locations nationwide with many of those destinations being remote hospitals. As it currently stands, CDC recommendations say that after healthcare workers, the elderly and long term care facilities, front line workers such as emergency responders, teachers and grocery store workers would be eligible for the next distribution tier.
Minor said while CDC guidelines must be followed, it is up to the state department of health to define how those guidelines are executed.
"And that guidance has not been released yet," Minor said on Friday, Dec. 18.
Gov. Cuomo reported on Monday 38,000 doses have already been given in New York, the most of any state.