Targeting healthcare workers, LI vaccinations begin

Stick figure: On Monday, Northwell Health intensive care RN Sandra Lindsay became the first U.S. citizen to receive a COVID-19 vaccine outside of a clinical trial.

Americans remain split about receiving a COVID-19 shot – but frontline healthcare workers are squarely in the vaccinate-me-now category.

Pfizer’s hastily approved COVID-19 vaccine is now coursing through American bloodstreams, and as the earliest shipments arrived this week on Long Island, workers throughout Island hospitals and healthcare systems were gratefully rolling up their sleeves.

Phase One of the State University of New York’s COVID-19 vaccine-distribution operation commenced Tuesday, with SUNY hospitals – including Stony Brook University Hospital – receiving their first ready-to-administer doses.

Mount Sinai South Nassau, Oceanside-based Long Island flagship of the New York City-based Mount Sinai Health System, also began administering COVID-19 vaccinations to frontline staff on Tuesday, one day after the New Hyde Park-based Northwell Health system made history by administering the first public U.S. dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.

That shot heard round the world was administered to Long Island Jewish Medical Center intensive care nurse Sandra Lindsay, making Northwell the first American healthcare system to immunize frontline workers against COVID-19 – and setting the tone for an opening round of Long Island immunizations aimed squarely at healthcare providers.

Initially limited to “a few thousand doses,” Northwell is planning a staged rollout targeting “essential frontline hospital personal.” While the Pfizer vaccine has demonstrated a remarkable 95 percent efficacy against infection, it requires two doses administered 21 days apart – prompting Northwell to create a “three-phase prioritization matrix” that anticipates future vaccine shipments and ultimately intends to vaccinate more than 74,000 staffers, according to the health system.

“Our detailed plan will push the seamless vaccination of these brave healthcare workers,” noted Northwell Deputy Chief Medical Officer Mark Jarrett, who said the health system was “excited to enter the final stage of this pandemic.”

Other providers are also anticipating the end of the Age of Coronavirus, and are also beginning the end by fortifying front-liners.

Staffers at Brooklyn’s Downstate Health Sciences University, Syracuse’s Upstate Medical University and Stony Brook Medical began receiving vaccinations Tuesday morning, with SUNY prioritizing personnel “directly caring for patients with COVID-19.” The State University system referenced New York State Department of Health guidelines emphasizing the vaccinations of first responders including Emergency Medical Technicians and emergency room attendants.

“Our SUNY hospitals and our heroic staff continue to be on the front lines fighting this vicious virus, working tirelessly to treat and care for New Yorkers,” noted SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras, adding SUNY healthcare providers were also “on the forefront of developing innovative pool testing and leading the vaccine trials.”

“Our frontline staff and many others to follow will rest assured that with our collective work, we are on our way to defeating the virus,” Malatras said.

While other at-risk demographics, including the elderly and patients with dangerous underlying conditions, are also keen to hop on the vaccination train, protecting frontline healthcare providers is a critical step – particularly with COVID cases rising and winter arriving, and doubly so at facilities like SBUH, where more than 1,200 coronavirus cases were treated during the spring surge alone.

“The dedicated frontline workers at Stony Brook University Hospital battled this virus at its peak last spring,” Stony Brook University President Maurie McInnis said in a statement. “They can now feel more confident that they will be protected while caring for their patients as the pandemic continues.”