NYS uses three tranches to administer vaccines

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

“I believe as we continue to ramp up, we will be able to meet the demands of supply as it comes in,” said Albany County Health Commissioner Elizabeth Whalen of COVID-19 vaccinations.

ALBANY COUNTY — In this, the fourth week of giving COVID-19 vaccinations, all high-risk health-care workers doing direct in-person care are eligible to get shots, said Albany County Health Commissioner Elizabeth Whalen.

Next week, starting Jan. 11, home-care workers, hospice workers, and nursing-home workers who weren’t already vaccinated will get the shots, she said on Monday.

These are all part of the “1a” group in the tiered system being overseen in the eight-county Capital Region by Albany Medical Center.

Whalen called it a herculean effort “the likes of which we haven’t seen before.”

“I think we’re up for it,” she said.

Also on Monday, the state launched a new “Am I Eligible " app to help New Yorkers determine their eligibility for vaccination, connect them with administration centers, and schedule appointments.

To access the app, as well as find the latest information concerning the vaccine and its administration, visit: https://covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, in a press conference on Monday, described the three tranches New York State is using to give vaccinations.

“We’re doing vaccines in nursing homes. Then it’s being administered by hospitals, and then it’s being administered through what we call special efforts,” he said.

The first tranche was part of a federally-run program using national pharmacy chains that went into nursing homes to administer shots. “That has not been going as quickly as we would have liked. New York is now going to step in and actually expedite the federal program in nursing homes,” said Cuomo.

The state has about 611 nursing homes, he said, and about 288 have completed first doses for residents. He said 234 more doses would be given this week, which will reach 85 percent of the state’s nursing-home residents by the end of this week.

The plan is to vaccinate the remaining 15 percent over the next two weeks while simultaneously vaccinating the nursing-home workers. “We’ll be sending in additional personnel into nursing homes to do the vaccines. Some nursing homes can actually do the injections themselves,” Cuomo said.

New York State followed federal guidance in having hospitals as the second tranche. He noted that the state has 170 private hospitals and 24 public hospitals.

“The hospitals have been receiving vaccines over the past three weeks, roughly 46 percent of the total allocation,” Cuomo said.

He said he wants to hold hospitals accountable and named a handful of the highest and lowest performing hospitals. New York Presbyterian was at the top, having administered 99 percent of its allocation and Samaritan Hospital was at the bottom, having administered 15 percent.

Albany Medical Center, the hub for the Capital Region, was not in either group.

Any provider must use the vaccine inventory currently in hand by the end of week or face a fine up to $100,000. “Going forward, they have to use the allocation within seven days; otherwise they can be removed from future distribution,” he said.

The third level of operation is “special efforts,” Cuomo said, in which the state will supplement the pharmacies and the hospitals.

“The state is going to be establishing drive-throughs for public distribution,” he said. “We’re going to be using public facilities, convention centers, field hospitals, et cetera, for distribution and we’re going to be using additional retired personnel, nurses, doctors, pharmacists, et cetera to staff those facilities.”

Part of the focus will be on poor communities without pharmacies or hospitals, known as health-care deserts. Cuomo has pledged not to receive a vaccine himself until people in his age group in Black and brown poor communities have it available to them.

He summarized the three-tranche approach: “So, we want to finish the nursing homes. Hospitals are doing health care workers. Hospitals will then be doing members of the general public and essential workers, but the state will also be opening its own distribution effort to accelerate those vaccines.”

At Monday morning’s Albany County press conference, Whalen said it was “essential” for the regional hub — Albany Medical Center — to work with the region’s eight county health departments.

All of them will share a state database, she said, that will “keep track of everyone vaccinated.”

The timeline for vaccine arrival is unknown, Whalen said. “We’re hoping, as supply ramps up, we can ramp up our efforts.”

She noted that Albany Med runs a daily POD, which stands for point of dispensing.

Albany Med launched an ad campaign for additional volunteers, Whalen said, and by Dec. 31 had “gained us an additional 281 vacinators.”

She said, “People are starting to step up.”

Whalen concluded, “I believe as we continue to ramp up, we will be able to meet the demands of supply as it comes in.”

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