By Ben Chapman and Jimmy Vielkind
New York expects to receive enough doses of a Covid-19 vaccine on Dec. 15 to begin immunizing 170,000 people, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.
Mr. Cuomo said at a news conference that the initial batch of vaccines -- manufactured by Pfizer Inc. in partnership with BioNTech SE -- will be distributed to residents of nursing homes and staff in those facilities. The companies will send the necessary second doses of the medicine roughly three weeks later to fully inoculate those recipients.
A second tranche of vaccines developed by Moderna Inc. is expected later in December, state officials said. Both Pfizer and Moderna have asked the Food and Drug Administration to authorize use of their vaccines, and the distribution is contingent upon that approval.
The initial number of doses won't be sufficient to fully inoculate the 85,000 nursing-home residents and 130,000 facility staff in the state, officials said. However, the governor said he expects some individuals will decline to take the vaccine.
Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, said he was following the advice of a federal advisory panel that on Tuesday recommended that health-care workers and residents of long-term care facilities be the first to receive vaccine doses. The governor said hospital-based health-care workers in the state would be vaccinated after people who live and work in nursing homes.
New York nursing homes were hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic in the spring. After thousands of deaths in nursing homes and mounting criticism, the state in May reversed an earlier mandate that said the facilities couldn't refuse to accept patients from hospitals who had been diagnosed with Covid-19.
Stephen Hanse, president of New York State Health Facilities Association and New York State Center for Assisted Living, said Wednesday that Mr. Cuomo's vaccination plan would safeguard nursing-home residents and staff throughout the state.
Under the plan Mr. Cuomo outlined, the majority of the state's more than 19 million residents won't receive a vaccine for months. Between 75% and 85% of residents must be vaccinated for normal economic activity to resume in the state, Mr. Cuomo said.
The state faces serious challenges in distributing vaccines and building public buy-in for vaccination programs, the governor said. Given those challenges, and the limited supply of vaccines, he said he expects a critical mass of New Yorkers to be inoculated by as early as June or as late as September.
The governor said the arrival of vaccines in New York offers both hope and challenges as the state has seen a sharp rise in the number of Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations in recent weeks.
"That's the bad news; we have another mountain to climb," Mr. Cuomo said. "The good news is, the goal line is in sight and the goal line is a vaccine."
The share of Covid-19 tests in the state that were positive reached 4.1% over a seven-day average as of Tuesday, state officials said. It was 1.6% on Nov. 1.
New York City on Wednesday reported a 4.8% positivity rate on a seven-day rolling average through Monday, according to the most recently released data.
The recent surge in cases is being fueled by residential gatherings -- many related to the holiday season -- and may begin to slow and reverse by mid-January, Mr. Cuomo said.
Write to Ben Chapman at Ben.Chapman@wsj.com and Jimmy Vielkind at Jimmy.Vielkind@wsj.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires