Northwell to lead Island vaccination plan, distribution

...or plan to fail: New York State plans to be "the first COVID-free state," according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, with the help of its new Regional Vaccination Hubs.

New York State will establish Regional Vaccination Hubs to streamline the Phase 2 administration of more plentiful COVID-19 vaccines.

Scheduled to commence in “early 2021,” according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office, Phase 2 will involve the distribution of larger numbers of vaccines to more diverse communities, including essential workers and at-risk community members. In Phase 1, limited supplies of biopharma giant Pfizer’s freshly minted COVID-19 vaccine are primarily targeting frontline healthcare workers.

As more vaccines earn federal approvals and more supplies arrive in New York, difficult logistics will muddle fast – Cuomo on Wednesday called it “the most ambitious governmental operation ever undertaken” – and the Regional Vaccination Hubs are meant to keep it all straight.

Each of the state’s 10 economic zones will have its own hub, managed by a local hospital system. On Long Island, New Hyde Park-based Northwell Health will take the reins, coordinating a plan that ultimately facilitates smart, rapid, Island-wide deployment of COVID-19 inoculations to whomever wants them, and submitting the forward-looking strategy for New York State Department of Health approvals.

Northwell made U.S. vaccination history on Tuesday, when it administered the first dose of Pfizer’s two-dose regimen to Long Island Jewish Medical Center intensive care nurse Sandra Lindsay, marking the nation’s first COVID-19 vaccination outside of controlled tests.

The local leadership of the state’s largest healthcare system (by number of providers and number of patients) adds real gravitas to a hub strategy that sets a very high bar.

Cuomo said he wants New York to be “the first COVID-free state” and designated “diligence” as the order of the day, noting Northwell and other hub leaders – including the Greater New York Hospital Association in New York City and the mid-Hudson’s Westchester Medical Center – will work directly with local stakeholders and community leaders to tailor plans to meet unique regional needs.

What’s the hub, bub: Governor Andrew Cuomo and NYS Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker (left) introduce the Regional Vaccination Hubs.

That includes addressing the concerns of local populations who may be hesitant about – or dead-set against – receiving the hastily approved vaccines.

To that end, before Phase 2 begins in earnest, the Vaccinate New York awareness campaign will work to educate state residents on new vaccine approvals and vaccination options, straight from the NYS Vaccine Distribution and Implementation Task Force.

Through the awareness campaign and Regional Vaccination Hubs, Albany is doing its best to prepare the state population for the next phases of the immunization process – hopefully, the final phases of the pandemic, according to the governor.

“It’s about logistics, and supply, and most importantly it’s about public education and access,” Cuomo said Wednesday. “Remember, we need to have 75 to 85 percent of the population vaccinated to actually win this war.”