The New York State Department of Health (DOH) released a guidance document (attached) yesterday in preparation for the initial delivery of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine in the coming days. The guidance provides important information for hospitals that can expect to receive vaccine in the first weeks of distribution, including on inventory caches of critical personal protective equipment (PPE) and ancillary vaccination supplies, and detailed guidance concerning sub-prioritization of health care personnel (HCP) in hospitals for COVID-19 vaccination. DOH also held a hospital vaccine guidance webinar yesterday to discuss the State’s guidance and next steps in preparing for the first week of COVID-19 vaccine shipments. DOH will share a webinar recording soon. The webinar recording is available here.

Inventory Caches of Critical PPE and Ancillary Vaccination Supplies

The guidance addresses the expected provision of supplies from the US government/Operation Warp Speed, ancillary vaccination supplies, and PPE needs that hospitals will be responsible for procuring on top of their existing PPE needs and stockpile requirements. GNYHA has heard from several hospitals that received these supplies this week.

Prioritization and Sub-Prioritization

Phase 1a of vaccine distribution and administration will prioritize HCP, including clinicians and non-clinical staff and nursing home residents and staff. Since the initial vaccine supply will be limited as production ramps up, DOH stresses the importance of sub-prioritizing HCPs by their level of exposure risk. Hospitals are encouraged to identify the HCP that will initially be offered the vaccine and communicate with them before the vaccine arrives.

Vaccine may only be redirected to a target population within the current phase priority groups. DOH strictly prohibits hospitals from vaccinating individuals in any other priority group until DOH communicates explicit approval. The guidance includes a form for hospitals to request permission to redirect vaccine between priority populations within the current phase.

Phase 1a Initial Shipment Considerations

The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee voted last night to recommend emergency use authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. It is anticipated that the Pfizer vaccine will receive the FDA’s EUA over the next few days. Initial shipments of Pfizer vaccine are anticipated as soon as next week. DOH outlined many considerations as we embark on the initial phase of vaccination. A few highlights follow:

  • DOH established that hospitals that receive the initial shipments are responsible for working with neighboring hospitals to coordinate staff access to the vaccine. DOH further noted that allocations for second doses are based on the location of the initial dose, so it is imperative that HCP understand where and when to return for their second dose.
  • Given that the Pfizer vaccine will have EUA (and not full approval/licensure), it is important to note that vaccination is consent-based and cannot be mandated.
  • DOH recommends that no more than one-third of staff in any given unit be given the vaccine at one time and that vaccination be staggered across departments/units in case of minor side effects that result in absenteeism.
  • At this time, vaccine will not be moving between locations due to cold chain requirements. However, a form to request to redistribute vaccine between locations was included in the guidance materials.

Upcoming Webinars on Vaccine Storage and Handling

Hospitals that will receive vaccine in the first week of distribution have been invited to participate in vaccine storage and handling webinars later today. The details of these webinars are as follows:

DOH Webinar for Hospitals Receiving Vaccine on Week One
Date: Friday, December 11
Time: 2:00 p.m.
Registration: https://meetny.webex.com/
Session number: 178 524 9912
Session password: Welcome2
Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine Storage and Handling Webinar
Date: Friday, December 11
Time: 5:00 p.m.
Registration: Awaiting details

Memorandum of Understanding

DOH reminded hospitals with ultracold storage that will receive the initial shipments of vaccine that they must review and execute a memorandum of understanding (MOU) (attached) as a condition of participation. Only 90 facilities across the State will be receiving these shipments and are responsible for signing the MOU.

Given the short time before vaccine shipments are anticipated, DOH requested that these hospitals review and return the executed MOU by today, December 11, at 1:00 p.m. via e-mail to sarah.brazzell@health.ny.gov.