December 2, 2020

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday the state expects to receive initial shipment of 170,000 doses of a final COVID-19 vaccine by Dec. 15 and will begin vaccinating nursing homes residents and health care workers, once the vaccine get approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

The vaccine, which is produced by Pfizer and BioNTech, is reported to have 95 precent efficacy against the coronavirus, and ongoing data review has not shown any serious safety concerns. The vaccine requires people to get two doses of immunization, the second dose to be given after three weeks of the initial dose.

The rollouts in New York is part of the initial wave of COVID-19 immunizations expected to begin across the country this month. New York will get additional 170,000 doses within 21 days to meet the requirement.

Underscoring human innate skepticism to vaccines, the logistical and financial challenges ahead for New York as well as other local, state and federal governments, the governor stated that the national push for vaccination against COVID-19 is historic and will be “the largest government operation taken since World War II.” 

Governor Cuomo said nursing home residents across the New York state and their staff will receive first priority to get vaccinated, followed by health care workers on the frontlines of the pandemic and people living in other congregant settings, such as adult care facilities.

The state is prioritizing nursing home residents, as many as 210,000 total nursing home residents—most of who are 65 years and older with underlining diseases are most vulnerable to the respiratory disease.

New York State officials said these segments of the population will continue to receive priority for vaccines until enough vaccines are available for the entire population.

The governor’s announcement comes as the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued new COVID-19 quarantine guidelines and travel advisory updates for the upcoming winter holidays.

The CDC Wednesday revised its quarantine guidelines for people who may have been exposed to the coronavirus, recommending an alternative 10 to seven days of quarantine instead of the standard 14 days, or two weeks it recommended at the start of the pandemic earlier this year. 

The agency also advised against winter holidays travel, urging people stay home for the upcoming holidays or get tested at least three before traveling and then again three to five days after travel, combined with quarantine for seven days after arriving.

During a telephone press briefing with reporters Wednesday, the CDC’s Incident Manager, Dr. Henry Walke said while the agency still recommend the 14-day quarantine as the safest option for people who have been exposed to the virus, depending on symptoms and test results, potential exposure warrants only 10 days if the person has not developed any symptoms and after seven days also tests negative for the coronavirus.

Noting the agency acknowledged the burden and economic hardship associated with the longer quarantine period on people who cannot work during that period, Walke said “reducing the quarantine may make it easier for people to follow critical public health action.”

Walke stated the agency will continue to refine its guidance to prevent transmission and protect Americans, adding that local health officials can adjust the agency’s recommendation according to their regions.

Governor Cuomo’s vaccine announcement and the CDC’s revised COVID-19 quarantine guidelines are welcome news to the general public as pandemic fatigue takes a toll on emotional wellbeing of many people after eight months of lockdown due to COVID-19.

In a separate briefing, the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed Scientific Advisor  Moncef Slauoi, who was enlisted in May by President Trump, told reporters that other vaccines by AstraZeneca-Oxford and Johnson & Johnson, both now in late stages of developments could receive emergency approval from the FDA by February, if they produce their data results between the end of December and mid-January.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine received approval Wednesday in Britain. However, the approval process in the U.S. is much slower and requires a public meeting of an advisory committee of the FDA, which will be held on December 10. A similar meeting will be held on December 17 for the approval of Moderna vaccine.

In addition to the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines, New York is expected to receive a shipment of COVID-19 vaccines later this month, produced by Moderna-NIH. 

Overall, federal officials expect 100 million Americans to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 by the end of February, an estimated 40 percent of the country’s adult population. Herd immunity is expected to be achieved among adult population by next summer to early fall in 2021.

The governor added that experts have noted 75 percent to 85 percent of the population needs to be vaccinated before the nation can get back to some normalcy after months of pandemic safety measures.