“Painless,” says Albany Med employee after receiving the first vaccination with the corona virus

ALBANY – Monday marked a new era in the fight against the novel coronavirus, as hospital workers in New York and the Capital Region were among the first in the nation to receive a vaccination against COVID-19.

The first New Yorker – and likely the first person in the United States – was vaccinated at 9:43 a.m. on Monday. Sandra Lindsay, a nurse who works in an intensive care unit in Queens, got the first of two Pfizer recordings on a live web stream hosted on Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s website.

“It felt no different than taking a different vaccine,” she said after receiving the injection.

About six hours later, Cynthia Tanksley – an administrative assistant in the emergency room at Albany Medical Center – rolled up her sleeve to receive what is believed to be the Capital Region’s first coronavirus vaccine.

“Painless” is the word Tanksley, who has worked at Albany Med for 41 years, used to describe the recording.

“It was good,” she said. “It wasn’t painful.”

Albany Medical Center Hospital on Monday afternoon administered the first of nearly 1,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine to frontline workers such as Tanksley, whose job of registering patients when they first come to the ER puts her at high risk of exposure. Nursing homes in the area are expected to receive their first doses of the vaccine on or around Dec. 21, officials announced last week.

“This is a historic moment for the region, but also for Albany Med,” said Dennis McKenna, president and CEO of Albany Med. “Don’t be fooled: there is still a tremendous amount of work to be done. But looking back in history to this date in the global pandemic, we will say that this was the beginning of the end in the Capital Region.”

Albany Med has received 975 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to date and the first batch will go to workers who work in environments with a higher risk of virus transmission, such as the emergency department and intensive care unit, said Dr. Fred Venditti, general hospital system director.

It will take a few days to administer the first batch of vaccines, he said. Workers who receive an injection this week should also receive a booster injection 21 days after their first dose for the vaccine to have full effect.

“There is some immunity after dose one,” said Anthony DeSpirito, director of pharmacy at Albany Med. “But actually it’s after dose two and then after that when full immunity is seen.”

Albany Med expects to receive another shipment of “first dose” vaccines within 21 days, Venditti said.

The hospital will not require staff vaccination, he said. The hospital sent a survey to employees to gauge their attitudes towards the COVID-19 vaccine, and more than 80 percent of the approximately 1,100 people who responded said they would feel comfortable receiving it, said he. Albany Med has about 10,000 employees, including 6,000 who work in primary care clinical settings, he said.

“The vaccine has been determined by the FDA and CDC to be safe and effective,” said McKenna. “Although it is not mandatory, workers are strongly encouraged to receive the vaccine.”

Even after vaccination, safety precautions and COVID-19 protocols, including masking, social distancing, hand washing and visitor restrictions, will continue at Albany Med, he said.

Related: Vaccine FAQs:

Where to test

The hospital began rolling out vaccines in September, McKenna said. An interdisciplinary team led by Albany Medical College’s Alden March Bioethics Institute developed guidelines for prioritization based on state recommendations, he said.

“The first place you go is of course where the workers are most at risk,” said McKenna. “That would be places like the emergency department and our intensive care units and then our units on the floors where COVID patients are treated. Sounds simple, but it gets very complex because you also need to prioritize members of staff who may be more at risk based on their co-morbidity or risk factors. So it’s incredibly complex work … we hope we can get through all those people ASAP. “

Dr. Greg Wu, an emergency medicine physician who has been treating COVID-19 patients since the start of the pandemic, was also one of the first Albany Med employees to receive the vaccine Monday. He felt just a squeeze, he said – “just like any other vaccine.”

“I am happy to be able to care for patients safely – COVID and non-COVID,” he said.

Other hospitals in the Capital Region did not immediately respond to Times Union questions on Monday about when they are expected to receive their first vaccines. McKenna also didn’t directly respond to whether Albany Med would become a vaccine distribution center in the region, but hinted it would.

“Albany Med wants to lead by example and we will certainly play an even greater role in the coming weeks and months when it comes to the distribution of the COVID vaccine,” he told reporters on Monday. “We will talk more about that in the very near future.”

New York would receive 170,000 initial doses of Pfizer vaccines, all of which will go to nursing home residents and staff, and primary care health workers. Thousands more of the Moderna alternative vaccine will be shipped to New York once it is also approved by the Food and Drug Administration, as was the Pfizer treatment last week. The first vaccinations began nationwide on Monday, and other news outlets reported that New York was the first.

Although the vaccine is imminent, the COVID-19 pandemic is not over yet.

“It will take months for the vaccine to reach critical mass,” Cuomo said Monday. “So this is the light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s a long tunnel, and we need people who will continue to do the right thing and smart throughout the holiday season.”

The coronavirus positivity rate in New York has skyrocketed in the past month, hovering around 5 percent statewide – a far cry from the late summer streak, when it was below 1 percent for a month. Hospital admissions and deaths are on the rise again, and Cuomo has said he expects the number of cases to continue to increase in the coming month as a result of increased socialization during the holiday season.

The governor estimated it won’t be until June for enough people to receive the vaccine – between 75 and 85 percent of the general population – to return to the pre-COVID standard.

Lindsay, the Queens nurse who received the state’s first injection, said she believes in the science behind the vaccine and hopes to instill public confidence in the process.

The leaders of Albany Med echoed that sentiment, urging the public to help them keep the virus at bay and keep hospital admissions low.

“Just as we have worked together to defeat the coronavirus by taking social distance and wearing masks and washing our hands, so too must we continue to work together to overcome it in this new phase … you can all play an incredibly important role. Play by taking the vaccine when it becomes available, “McKenna said.” Help us help you by getting it when the vaccine is available in your area. “

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