Vaccine Update from MSSNY President Bonnie Litvack, MD

Dear Colleague:

This pandemic has stretched the capabilities of every single American, indeed every citizen of the world. The financial and economic fall-out, the mental, emotional, and physical toll every one of us has felt for the last eight months has been immense. Recovery may take many years. Everyone is weary and everyone is exhausted.

But there is one thing I know: physicians are resilient and have proven time and again that they will take care of patients day in and day out without fail, because that is who we are and that is what our profession is all about.

Over the last week there have been many phone calls and emails from physicians with concerns that they will not be immunized for COVID-19.

The reality is that all physicians and other healthcare workers are considered in the 1a vaccination group and will be offered vaccination before the next phase of vaccination begins. However, at the moment vaccine is still in short supply and only about 50,000 or so have been vaccinated to date in NY.

In the next week or so the state is expecting 5-600,000 doses and those will all go to the 1a category. There are 2 million people in the 1a group. The hope is over the next month or so that NYS will get enough vaccine to vaccinate the 1a group, which includes physicians and office staff that have patient contact.

Regional hubs have been assigned throughout the state and those hubs are currently developing the plans with the local health departments on how the vaccine will be distributed in their areas. Each region is supposed to be using an algorithm to decide who gets the vaccine first within the 1a group; that algorithm factors in work exposure as well as personal risk factors. The hubs will reach out to the non-hospital affiliated doctors when vaccine is available for them and their staffs. They are counting on our help to distribute the vaccine. We are hoping to have the contact information for each regional hub shortly and will provide you with that information.

The regional hubs are: Greater New York Hospital Association for New York City; Northwell Health System for Long Island; Westchester Medical Center for Mid-Hudson; Albany Medical Center for Capital Region; Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital for the North Country; Mohawk Medical Center for the Mohawk Valley; United Health Systems for the Southern Tier; SUNY Upstate Medical Center for Central New York; University of Rochester Medical Center for Finger Lakes; Catholic Health System for Western New York.

This country is soon to embark on a mass immunization and all physicians will again be called upon to help in the effort. We urge you to be an advocate for COVID-19 immunization by becoming immunized, and encouraging your staff and colleagues to do the same. Recommend immunization to your patients and consider being a COVID-19 immunizer.

Information on this process can be found on here.

The good news today is the national purchase of vaccines from Pfizer and BioNTech for delivery in the second quarter of 2021. With this new purchase, our patients will be able to receive the vaccine earlier. While I wish there was an adequate supply of vaccine available immediately for all physicians and other healthcare workers, unfortunately, that is not the case. However, please know that there is a NYS plan and community physicians with and without hospital affiliation are included and will be vaccinated in the priority group.

Thank you for all that you have done and will do. I sincerely wish you a wonderful holiday season and look forward to a better New York.

Warmest regards,

Bonnie Litvack, MD
President, Medical Society of the State of New York