Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Wednesday that the state – which has seen more than 34,000 deaths since the onset of the public health crisis – is set to receive a first round of Pfizer’s vaccine by mid-December, should the drug meet safety and efficacy approvals by the Food and Drug Administration.
The drugs require two doses, set roughly a month apart, to take effect. Additional doses of the vaccine from Pfizer and Moderna could follow the initial shipment, pending government approval, and could be distributed by the end of December. Officials estimate 22.5 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine will be available by mid-month, with another 18 million doses from Moderna to follow. Distribution through the federal government is based on states’ populations, and there is “no discretion in how much the state gets,” the governor said.
On Tuesday, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommend healthcare workers and residents at long-term health facilities receive the first doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, upon approval, as state and local governments prepare to distribute a vaccine within the coming weeks.
Drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna have sought emergency use authorisation from the FDA for their vaccine candidates. The agency meets on 10 December to review Pfizer’s request, and administration officials believe distribution can begin almost immediately upon approval.
Long-term care residents and congregate care workers will be first to receive a vaccine, followed by health workers who risk exposure to the disease, according to the governor’s office. There are roughly 600,000 healthcare workers in the state.
Governor Cuomo – who will resume coronavirus briefings on Monday, Wednesday and Friday amid a surge in nationwide cases, as New York’s infection rate remains one of the lowest in the country while hospitalisation spike – said he spoke with FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn and CDC director Robert Redfield about vaccine distribution, including ensuring the availability of doses for Black residents and communities of colour that have seen disproportionately higher impacts.
Nearly 4,000 people in the state are currently hospitalised. The state’s infection rate on Tuesday was 4.6 per cent, slightly below a 5 per cent threshold.
Health officials reported nearly 9,000 new infections, the largest single-day case spike since April.
Governor Cuomo expects the spread of the disease to flatten by mid-January following the winter holiday season, as the state braces for impacts from small gatherings – the “No. 1 cause” for coronavirus transmission in the state, he said.
“You’ll see these numbers continue to increase all through the holiday season, probably til mid-January," he said. “ You have not yet seen the effect of Thanksgiving. There will be a lag, and you will see the effect a week out from today. … You won’t see a real end until the vaccine hits critical mass.”
He estimated that could arrive by late summer.