Northwell Health conducts first COVID-19 vaccination in United States

Robert Pelaez
More than 9,000 people throughout the North Shore had tested positive for the coronavirus as of Sunday, according to county figures. (Chart by Robert Pelaez)

New York state’s largest health system, Northwell Health, made history on Monday by vaccinating the first person in the United States against COVID-19. 

In a Zoom conference with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Dr. Michelle Chester, director of employee health care, injected Pfizer Inc.’s vaccine into Sandra Lindsay of Port Washington, an intensive care nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park. Northwell President and CEO Michael Dowling was also present.

“Today is V-Day in our fight against COVID-19,” Dowling told the governor. “This truly is a historic day for science and humanity, one in which we here in New York and across the United States have been waiting for quite some time.” 

The system said Lindsay’s participation kick-started a long-anticipated vaccination deployment program throughout the country, as well as the first phase of Northwell’s three-stage rollout to essential frontline hospital personnel. Physicians, nurses and any staff member working in direct contact with COVID-19 patients will also soon receive the first dose of a two-dose regimen.

Lindsay was the first person in the country to be vaccinated, according to Northwell and the governor’s office.

Northwell received a limited supply of a few thousand doses of Pfizer’s vaccine, to be spread among eight hospitals. The regimen will require two injections, 21 days apart. 

The system said the vaccine has demonstrated 95 percent efficacy against infection with minimal side effects and works on messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, which has been in development for several years. Messenger RNA instructs cells in the body to make different proteins.

To vaccinate team members, Northwell has prepared a three-phase prioritization matrix to help deploy the vaccine to its over 74,000 team members. The plan factors in a person’s work/geographic area, department specialty, job function and age. 

To prepare, Northwell invested in procuring more than 20 minus 70-degree Fahrenheit  freezers, which can store about 250,000 doses each. Northwell also stocked up on extra needles, gloves and swabs,  and the health system has been working hand-in-hand with state and federal officials for a rollout.

“This is a major milestone in our battle against COVID-19 and a remarkable effort by our researchers, scientists and health care providers,” said Dr. Mark Jarrett, Northwell’s chief quality officer and deputy chief medical officer. “Our detailed plan will push the seamless vaccination of these brave health care workers. We are very excited to enter the final stage of this pandemic.”

Dowling added, “COVID-19 took our loved ones, disrupted our lives and forced us to deal with unthinkable circumstances. But hope brings prosperity and we never ended our fight. We never did wave the white flag.”

The vaccine’s presence on Long Island comes at a time when more than 9,000 people on the North Shore have tested positive for the coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic in mid-March as of Sunday night.

The figures were the most up-to-date ones that the Nassau County Department of Health provided on Wednesday.

Nearly 2,000 people on the Great Neck peninsula had tested positive for the virus as of Sunday, according to county figures, which continues to lead the areas analyzed.  The Village of Great Neck’s 574 coronavirus cases were the most throughout the peninsula, followed by the Village of Kings Point’s 411 and the Village of Great Neck Plaza’s 348.

The Port Washington area’s 841 cases account for almost 10 percent of the North Shore’s positive tests. Nearly 200 people in the Village of Manorhaven had tested positive for the virus, according to county figures.

The New Hyde Park area accounted for 1,891 of the North Shore’s cases, with North New Hyde Park having the third-most confirmed positives, 703, out of any analyzed area.  The villages of Floral Park, with 556 cases, and New Hyde Park, with 479 cases, were also among the top seven villages or unincorporated town areas in terms of positive tests, according to Health Department statistics.

Municipalities and unincorporated areas that stretch into more than one North Shore area such as Flower Hill, Herricks, Albertson, Garden City Park, Searingtown and North Hills were counted separately and accounted for 1,266 cases, according to county statistics.

The Village of Mineola saw the highest increase of cases over the one-week period with more than 75 new cases. Mineola’s 822 cases and Garden City’s 710 cases accounted for 1,532 of the 1,876 cases in the area that also takes in the Willistons.

Manhasset, which has remained comparatively low since the beginning of the pandemic, had 553 cases, with around half coming from town-governed areas.  It is the only analyzed area with fewer than 600 cases.

The Village of Roslyn’s 183 cases may not seem high compared with other North Shore areas, but the cases per 1,000 residents, 64.17, is one of the highest rates in Nassau County, according to Health Department figures. Despite this, the village has seen one of the lowest one-month increases of any analyzed municipality, with fewer than 20 new confirmed cases since Nov. 11, according to county statistics.

A total of 67,203 Nassau County residents had tested positive for the virus as of Sunday, and 2,285 had died since the pandemic began. More than 380 Nassau residents remained hospitalized due to the virus, with 53 in intensive care units and 37 on ventilators, according to county figures.

Throughout New York, more than 790,000 people had tested positive for the coronavirus as of Wednesday, according to state figures. Of that total, more than 35,200 people had died. In New York City, 364,000 people had contracted the virus, and 24,526 had died. 

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Robert Pelaez

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