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‘Painless,’ Albany Med worker says after getting 1st coronavirus inoculation

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“It didn’t feel any different than taking any other vaccine,” she said after receiving the shot.

Roughly six hours later Cynthia Tanksley — a clerical associate specialist in Albany Medical Center’s emergency room — 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 getting the shot.

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

Albany Medical Center Hospital administered the first of nearly 1,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine Monday afternoon to frontline employees like Tanksley, whose job registering patients when they first come into the ER puts her at high risk for exposure. Area nursing homes 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, as well as for Albany Med,” said Albany Med President and CEO Dennis McKenna. “Do not let yourself be fooled: there is still a tremendous amount of work to be done. But when we look back in history at 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 so far and the first batch is going to employees who work in settings that are at higher risk for virus transmission, such as the emergency department and intensive care unit, said Dr. Fred Venditti, hospital system general director.

It will take a few days to administer the initial batch of vaccines, he said. Employees who receive a shot this week must also receive a booster shot 21 days after their first dose in order for the vaccine’s full effectiveness to take effect.

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

Albany Med anticipates receiving another shipment of “first dose” vaccines within the next 21 days, Venditti said.

The hospital will not be mandating vaccination of staff, he said. The hospital sent a survey out to employees to gauge their attitudes toward the COVID-19 vaccine, and over 80 percent of the approximately 1,100 people who responded said they’d be comfortable receiving it, he said. Albany Med has about 10,000 employees, including 6,000 who work in frontline clinical settings, he said.

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

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


Related:  Vaccine FAQ:

Where to get tested

The hospital began strategizing its vaccine rollout back 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 that you go is obviously the places where the workers are most at risk,” McKenna said. “Those would be places like the emergency department and our intensive care units and then our units on the floors that treat COVID patients. Sounds easy, but it gets very complex because you also have to prioritize members of the workforce who may be more at risk based on their co-morbidities or risk factors. So it’s incredibly complex work … our hope is to be able to roll through all those people as quickly as we can.”

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 get the vaccine Monday. He felt only a pinch, he said — “just like any other vaccine.”

“I’m happy that I can take care of patients — COVID and non-COVID in a safe fashion,” he said.

Other Capital Region hospitals did not directly respond to Times Union questions Monday about when they are expected to receive their first vaccines. McKenna did not directly respond either when asked if Albany Med would become a distribution hub for vaccines in the region, but he hinted it might.

“Albany Med wants to lead by example and we are certain to play an even broader role in the weeks and months ahead when it comes to the distribution of the COVID vaccine,” he told reporters Monday. “We will be speaking more about that in the very near future.”

New York was slated to receive 170,000 initial doses of Pfizer vaccines, all of which will be going to nursing home residents and staff, and frontline healthcare workers. Thousands more of the alternate Moderna vaccine will be shipped to New York once it too is approved by the Food and Drug Administration, as the Pfizer treatment was last week. The first vaccinations started around the country Monday, and other news outlets reported that New York was first.

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

“It’s going to take months before the vaccine hits 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 to continue to do the right thing and the smart thing all the way through the holiday season.”

New York’s coronavirus positivity rate has soared over the last month, hovering around 5 percent statewide — a far cry from the streak in late summer when for a month it was below 1 percent. Hospitalizations and deaths have climbed again, and Cuomo has said that he expects cases to continue to rise throughout the next month as a result of increased socialization during the holiday season.

The governor estimated that it will not be until June that enough people will have received the vaccine — between 75 and 85 percent of the general population — for a return to pre-COVID normalcy.

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

Albany Med leaders echoed that sentiment and urged members of the public to help them keep the virus at bay and hospitalizations low.

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

See more at the Times Union’s coronavirus page or sign up for our newsletter

Article source: https://www.timesunion.com/news/article/Painless-Albany-Med-worker-says-after-getting-15800478.php

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