By Kevin Biggiani
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that on December 15th, pending FDA approval, New York State should receive enough doses of a COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by Pfizer Inc. to immunize 170,000 people.
This first batch of the Pfizer Inc. vaccine will be distributed to residents of nursing homes and to staff in those facilities, though Governor Cuomo will not mandate it. The required second dose of the vaccine will follow approximately three weeks later to fully inoculate those recipients. Even though the total number of nursing-home residents in New York, 85,000, and the total facility staff, 130,000, combined is far greater than 170,000, the Governor is not concerned and expects some individuals will decline to take the vaccine.
A week or two later, pending FDA approval, Moderna Inc. is also expected to send its vaccine to New York, and a constant flow of shipments will continue to follow every 7 to 10 days on a rolling basis.
Altogether, New York should receive enough to provide two doses of the vaccine to approximately 20 million people.
While details are still being finalized, a United States advisory panel is still deciding who should get priority in receiving the vaccine. After nursing home residents and staff on December 15th, it will most likely be provided to frontline doctors, nurses, first responders, and people of all ages with two or more risk factors under Phase One. The next phase might include teachers, school staff members, childcare workers and people working in the food supply chain. Phase Three would probably include anyone over age 65 or deemed high risk, and Phase Four would include all other essential workers. Phase Five would include everyone else living in the United States.
Surveys show that people are questioning the motives of the pharmaceutical industry. In the past, vaccines have generally taken ten or more years to develop. Many citizens wonder if a vaccine produced so quickly will be safe. Neither of the vaccines from Pfizer Inc. nor Moderna Inc. is one hundred percent effective, and many people already have decided they will not take the vaccine even if mandated.
The uncertainty surrounding the vaccine leaves many questions. Should the government decide who receives the vaccine first? Since the virus is so contagious, would it be better for a cross section of the population to receive the vaccine rather than particular groups? Once the vaccine is distributed here, at what point can everyone stop wearing masks? Will large gatherings ever be truly safe again?
The United States has over 328 million citizens. Governor Cuomo’s primary concern is that vaccinating 20 million people is barely 6% of the total population of the United States. Cuomo indicated between 75% and 85% of people would need to be vaccinated to allow the country to return to normalcy. Herd immunity, which requires 60% to 70% of the population to have antibodies, from either having the virus or vaccinations, seems a very distant goal for Long Island.
So, New Yorkers will soon be left with a decision to make: will they take the vaccine when they are given the opportunity?