COVID-19 vaccinations begin at Bassett

ContributedMaureen Kranhul, a respiratory therapist at A.O. Fox Hospital, receives the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday from Carolyn Crosby.

The first doses of COVID-19 vaccine have reached the region.

Bassett Healthcare Network said Wednesday it received its first allocation of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine this week and began vaccinating clinical and non-clinical staff members who work in direct patient care areas. The staff members receiving the vaccine in the first phase of distribution fall into the Tier 1 group prioritized to receive the vaccine, as defined by state and federal criteria. All five hospitals in the network received their initial allotment of the Moderna vaccine just ahead of Christmas, according to a media release.

“It has been a long several months, and our practitioners, nurses and other staff who have been battling this pandemic for nearly a year are energized by the arrival of a vaccine,” Bassett President and CEO Dr. Tommy Ibrahim said. “All employees will be offered the vaccine in the coming weeks; those prioritized by the New York State Department of Health to be vaccinated first are clinical and non-clinical employees who work in direct patient care areas, and employees who are 65 years of age or older.”

There are more than 5,000 employees in the Bassett network, the release said. Before receiving the Moderna vaccine, some Bassett employees traveled to state designated hub hospitals in Utica and Elmira to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Both vaccines require a second inoculation. Those who received the Pfizer vaccine will be vaccinated again 21 days later. Those who receive the Moderna vaccine will get a second dose 28 days later.

“Both vaccines approved for emergency use by the FDA in this pandemic have been proven in clinical studies to be 94 to 95 percent effective, which is remarkable,” Ibrahim said in the release. “It is a safe vaccine, and I encourage everyone to become vaccinated when it becomes available as the COVID-19 vaccine is key to putting the pandemic behind us.”

According to state and federal guidelines, frontline health care workers across the state and country are being vaccinated first. The COVID-19 vaccines are anticipated to be available to the general population the first or second quarter of 2021. "Bassett Healthcare Network will continue to work closely with county public health departments and the New York State Department of Health to distribute the vaccine when it becomes more widely available," the release said.

“While this latest development in our fight against COVID-19 is exciting, we remain in an unprecedented national public health emergency,” Ibrahim said. “I ask everyone in the days and months ahead to follow the precautionary measures proven to work in this pandemic. Social distancing, mask wearing, good hand hygiene, avoiding travel and staying within your known social group are still the means to managing this pandemic.”

The vaccinations at Bassett are part of a statewide effort to administer vaccine to frontline medical workers.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Wednesday that 89,000 New Yorkers had received the first COVID-19 vaccine dose to date. A total of 22,000 New Yorkers have received the first dose in 90 nursing home facilities as part of a federal-private partnership program.

 Cuomo also announced that the state Department of Health has authorized the use of extra doses that have been found in Moderna vaccine vials. The vials were previously believed to contain 10 doses, but may now contain up to 11 doses, according to a media release from Cuomo's office.

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