New York City is setting up plans to distribute COVID-19 vaccines starting this month, including making sure hospitals have the ultracold freezers needed to store the Pfizer vaccine, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday.
“We are working closely with the state of New York on a distribution plan with an important focus on those who have the greatest need and need to get the vaccine in the first efforts,” the Democratic mayor said at his daily coronavirus briefing.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that he hopes to receive 170,000 doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 15, with additional vaccine shipments from Pfizer and Moderna within weeks. Health-care workers and nursing home residents and workers will be prioritized in the first wave of vaccinations, Cuomo said.
New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi noted that while the Moderna vaccine can be stored at normal freezer temperatures, the Pfizer vaccine requires ultracold storage at minus 80 degrees Celsius.
Chokshi said that more than 50 city hospitals either currently have access to ultracold storage or will have ultracold freezers delivered soon, for a total citywide storage capacity of at least 1.5 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
New York City, meanwhile, is aiming to leverage its hard-won coronavirus expertise to create a research center that will help the world prepare for the next pandemic, officials said.
De Blasio said he hopes to launch the Pandemic Response Institute by the end of next year with a yet-to-be determined partner.
“The Pandemic Response Institute will establish New York City as a global leader in public health training, research, and management,” the mayor said. “No city in the county has sacrificed more or worked harder to keep COVID-19 at bay. It’s time to put those lessons to work — and move forward with bold ideas to keep New Yorkers healthy and jump-start our economic recovery.”
The institute will initially be housed at the the Alexandria Center for Life Science, where the city set up a lab dedicated to processing COVID-19 tests in September.
Dr. Jay Varma, a senior public health adviser to the mayor, said the institute “will position the city as a leader in pandemic response and strengthen our infrastructure for future outbreaks.”
The city is making an initial investment of $20 million in the project, de Blasio said.