Initial batch of 170K doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected to be delivered to New York this month, governor says

New York is expected to receive its first delivery of 170,000 doses of a Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19 on Dec. 15, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday.

By the end of December, as many as 20 million Americans — or 6% of the nation’s population — could expect to receive a vaccine, Mr. Cuomo said.

As many as 75-85% of the population would need need the vaccine, a “tremendously high percentage,” the governor said, for an economic return to normal. He said experts have predicted that could be anywhere from June to September of 2021.

“Nobody knows because there are too many variables,” he said. “It may also vary state to state, depending on how well that state does.”

The Pfizer vaccine requires two doses, so the recipients of that initial batch of vaccines will be given a second dose approximately three weeks later. Nursing home residents and staff will receive the priority for the initial batch. Mr. Cuomo said the state’s vaccine distribution plan has been mirrored by guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC also reported an update on quarantine guidelines Wednesday that allow for shorter periods than the standard 14-day timeline. A person who is asymptomatic can quarantine for 10 days without a COVID test. For someone who receives a COVID test, the quarantine can end after seven days if no symptoms are reported during that time. Additional monitoring for symptoms should still be done either way through the full 14 days.

That initial batch of vaccines sent to New York won’t be enough to cover the entire state’s nursing home and staff population, which Mr. Cuomo said is around 210,000. He added, though, that given the number of people who may decline to take the vaccine, the initial batch may be enough to cover everyone who is willing to take it.

“You can’t mandate that somebody takes the vaccine,” Mr. Cuomo said, acknowledging the prevalence of skepticism that exists on vaccines. “We’re not mandating. I don’t think it would be successful. We’re trying to do it the other way. Education — show that it’s safe.”

The state is expecting to receive a second batch of vaccines through the biotech company Moderna a couple weeks after receiving the Pfizer batch, although it’s unclear how many doses that will be, officials said. The governor said additional shipments could be coming on a consistent 7-to-10-day period.

Health care workers beyond nursing homes are expected to be the next group eligible to receive the vaccine. There are approximately 600,000 health care workers in the state and higher risk workers, such as those in an emergency room and those working directly with COVID patients, would be given priority.

“On the vaccines, my goal for this state is to have the fastest and most effective vaccination program in the United State,” the governor said. “I believe this state has the capacity to do that.”

Mr. Cuomo said federal funding would be essential for the rollout of the vaccine program.

“If we get the federal funding that’s anywhere fair, then yeah, we can be all sorts of creative,” he said on how the rollout is done.

He estimated an outreach education campaign in the state could cost $1 billion.

“We just don’t have it,” he said.

The latest statewide data shows an overall statewide positivity rate of 4.63%. Statewide hospitalizations climbed to 3,924, an increase of 150 over the prior 24 hours. There were 69 fatalities in the state.

There has been a 212% increase in hospitalizations on Long Island over the past three weeks.