Coronavirus vaccinations began in New York nursing homes Monday, with a 78-year old resident at one Bronx facility that’s been ravaged by COVID-19 getting one of the first shots.
Kelly Dixon eagerly pushed up a sleeve of his brown shirt to get the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech during an event at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale.
“Go for it,” Dixon told pharmacist Michael Zarestsky, who wielded the syringe.
A moment after the injection, someone asked, “How was it, Kelly?” to which he replied, “You did it already?” he replied.
The facility’s medical director, Dr. Zachary Palace, was also inoculated by pharmacist Ankur Amin.
Onlookers broke out in cheers and applause following the injections, which were livestreamed on YouTube at 10 a.m.
Shots were also administered about 45 minutes later at the New Jewish Home on Manhattan’s Upper Side, with 96-year-old resident Rhoda Winkelman among those inoculated.
When asked how she felt about receiving the vaccine, Winkelman seemed non-plussed.
“Whatever,” she said.
Monday marked the start of vaccinations for residents and workers at 618 long-term care facilities across New York, where scandal erupted over a since-rescinded order that forced nursing homes to admit “medically stable” coronavirus patients discharged from hospitals.
Around 6,500 nursing home residents have been killed by the coronavirus, according to official figures, though an August estimate by the Associated Press said the actual number was likely greater than 11,000.
The two-dose vaccines are being administered on-site by the CVS and Walgreens drug-store chains.
CVS plans to complete its first round of shots within two weeks and Walgreens is expected to adhere to a “similar timetable,” Gareth Rhodes of the state Department of Financial Services said last week.
At the New Jewish Home, CEO Dr. Jeffrey Farber said Walgreens brought 700 doses for Monday’s injections, with 1,300 needed to inoculate all residents and staffers.
“The residents, on the whole, are more apt to embrace the vaccine, to be excited to get it,” he said.
“The residents haven’t been able to see their families and loved ones for months on end.”
But Farber said that a “sizeable portion of the staff are worried about the vaccine and reluctant to get vaccinated right away and want to wait a little bit and see how it plays out.”
“We’ve been working really hard to communicate with the staff and encourage them in every way possible to take the vaccine,” he added.
At the Hebrew Home, Palace said the injections would mark “a very historic day in the history of the Hebrew Home, as well as in the history of nursing homes in America.”
“Today is the day that defines the difference between the pre-vaccine period and the post-vaccine period,” Palace said.
“Today is the day where we have the COVID vaccine available to give to our residents and to our staff. It’s the day that we are able to do something proactive to help finally break this horrible pandemic.”
Official statistics show the Hebrew Home has 52 resident deaths confirmed or suspected to have been caused by the coronavirus.
But The Post exclusively revealed in May that staffers said 119 people had died in the prior two months, including many suffering symptoms of COVID-19.
Weeks later, the state Health Department slapped the facility with several violations for “infection control concerns, failure to report accurately upon request by the department, and failure to communicate with families and residents in a timely fashion regarding COVID-19 deaths.”
Last month, The Post also revealed that “several units” at the 751-bed facility were closed due to the flood of fatalities, and that 56 workers had been laid off as a result.