The first coronavirus vaccine distribution center in Nassau County opened on Tuesday at Nassau Community College.
Nassau County’s Medical Reserve Corps will distribute the vaccinations to residents with aid from Northwell Health, which was designated by the state as Long Island’s vaccination coordinator. Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said the center will distribute 115 vaccines on Tuesday, but the goal of the center is to distribute 400 daily doses.
“We are ready, set, go with the County’s first vaccination center,” Curran said. “This is the beginning of our local effort to join New York State and Nassau’s hospital networks to roll out the vaccine. This is how Nassau County can lead the way to a healthy New Year with our schools and businesses open.”
Northwell CEO Michael Dowling said on Monday his goal is to have no vaccine doses left over at the end of each week. As of Sunday, Dowling said, roughly 25,000 Northwell Health employees had been vaccinated. Dowling said his goal for the end of the week was to have about 40,000 to 50,000 employees vaccinated.
“Our goal is to distribute the vaccine safely, equitably and as quickly as possible, but because supply is limited, we encourage everyone to be patient,” Dowling said. “As part of this effort and at Governor Cuomo’s request, we have also convened a Health Equity Task that will be working with local clinicians and community leaders to ensure the vaccine is reaching people in areas where there is a history of health disparities and a high prevalence of chronic diseases that have made them more vulnerable to COVID-19.”
Cuomo said high-risk hospital workers, EMS employees, medical examiners, coroners, funeral workers, and staff, and residents of the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities and Office of Medical Health facilities will be prioritized in obtaining the vaccines this week.
Curran said she believes one vaccine center will suffice for the time being since the vaccine has not been made available for the general public yet. If the county inoculated only 400 residents a day, it would take more than nine years for every one of the county’s 1.3 million residents to receive a vaccine. With the county’s Health Department and the Medical Reserve Corps, along with Northwell, spearheading the local vaccination distributions, Curran called on first responders and emergency personnel to sign up and expand participation.
“We have the first one hundred medical personnel signed up for Tuesday and we have opened registration for Wednesday,” Curran said. “I am calling on all emergency and first responders who qualify to sign up immediately.”
Presiding Officer Rich Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said his fellow Republican legislators are eager to aid in the distribution of vaccines for county residents.
“The Majority looks forward to the ramp up of vaccine distribution to help Nassau residents continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Nicolello said.
According to statistics provided by the state, Nassau University Medical Center was the third-lowest performing hospital system in the state, distributing just 19 percent of the allocated dosages. Curran said she was displeased with the lack of distribution progress the hospital was making, though the county has no jurisdiction over the hospital or its independent board of directors.
“I want to make sure doses are administered as quickly as possible,” Curran said. “What’s happening right now does not meet my expectations for a plan of action.”
Dr. Anthony Boutin, the president and chief executive of the Nassau University Medical Center, said the 19% figure provided by the state was incorrect, and that the hospital had actually distributed 34% of vaccines. Despite this, Boutin said, the hospital needs to increase its distribution of the vaccine.
“It is inexcusable for the Nassau University Medical Center to have distributed only 19% of the vaccine it has been provided,” Nicolello said. “By failing to distribute the vaccine, the hospital is failing as a safety net for those most in need of medical care, including communities of color. The County Executive can try to distance herself from NUMC, but she needs to light a fire under the Chairman of the Board, whom she appointed to run NUMC.”