One week after it began the mass vaccination of frontline health care workers in the fight against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), Northwell Health today received its first allocation of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine to continue the process of protecting its staff.
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Arlene Ramirez, RN, get a shot of Moderna Vaccine from Michelle Chester, DNP, at Long Island Jewish Valley Stream. (Photo: Business Wire)
Arlene Ramirez, RN, was the first Northwell team member to receive the Moderna vaccine. "We shouldn’t be afraid of the vaccine," she said. "We should all be afraid of COVID-19."
Ms. Ramirez knows the devastation COVID-19 can wreak firsthand. The 44-year-old from Ozone Park, Queens, is director of patient care for the emergency department at Long Island Jewish Valley Stream, one of the hardest-hit hospitals during the first wave. She was stricken by the virus in March and it also eventually claimed the life of her father.
With long-term immunity an open question for those previously diagnosed with COVID-19, Ms. Ramirez, a mother of two, volunteered to be the first Northwell Health employee to receive the Moderna vaccine when it arrived December 21.
"Not knowing whether I was going to make it was a horrible feeling," Ms. Ramirez said. "The gasping for air, the fevers and headaches – I don’t want to go through that again. And I don’t want to put my family through that. If the Moderna vaccine is a measure to decrease that risk, then I feel safe taking it."
Northwell, the largest health system in New York State, has treated more hospitalized COVID-19 patients than anywhere in the United States since the pandemic first struck the region in March. Protecting its hospital staff as it faces a second wave is of paramount priority to ensure the continuous, quality care of patients.
"To best serve our communities in this time of crisis, our health care workers – who have been performing heroically since this pandemic began – need to be able to stand tall in the face of COVID-19," said Michael Dowling, Northwell’s president and CEO. "These vaccines will help offer a level of protection that goes beyond mask-wearing, handwashing and social distancing. It is the bridge that gets us through this dark present and to a healthier future."
This important phase in the war on COVID-19 kicked off with the arrival of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on December 14. To date, more than 7,000 Northwell frontline employees have been vaccinated.
Like the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, Moderna’s was produced in record time using messenger RNA technology and has been deemed 94.5 percent effective. Moderna’s two-dose vaccine received emergency approval by the FDA late Friday and the health system began receiving shipments on December 21. Unlike Pfizer, it requires only routine cold storage, up to 10 shots can be administered from a single vial and a second booster shot must be administered 28 days later.
"This important new development will increase our vaccine supply and help us further accelerate our team member vaccination program," said David Battinelli, MD, chief medical officer, Northwell Health. "Both vaccines have proven to be extremely safe and effective in trials. We will continue our phased rollout that started last week with those who are occupationally at highest risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the health care setting."
Northwell is inoculating employees using 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. More than 36,000 lives have been lost to COVID-19 across New York State since the beginning of the pandemic.
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About Northwell Health
Northwell Health is New York State’s largest health care provider and private employer, with 23 hospitals, nearly 800 outpatient facilities and more than 14,200 affiliated physicians. We care for over two million people annually in the New York metro area and beyond, thanks to philanthropic support from our communities. Our 74,000 employees – 18,500 nurses and 4,500 employed doctors, including members of Northwell Health Physician Partners – are working to change health care for the better. We’re making breakthroughs in medicine at the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research. We're training the next generation of medical professionals at the visionary Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell and the Hofstra Northwell School of Nursing and Physician Assistant Studies. For information on our more than 100 medical specialties, visit Northwell.edu and follow us @NorthwellHealth on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.
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