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Albany Med Administers First Doses Of Coronavirus Vaccine

Albany Med CEO & President Dr. Dennis McKenna
Dave Lucas
Albany Med CEO & President Dr. Dennis McKenna

Five healthcare workers at Albany Medical Center became the first in the region to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine Monday at the hospital.

Last week, the Food and Drug Administration authorized the emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. On Sunday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officially allowed Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to be administered to people ages 16 and up.

Albany Medical Center received 975 initial doses of the vaccine Monday morning. Albany Med CEO and President Dr. Dennis McKenna hailed the vaccine as a major step in caring for the community through the pandemic.

"This is a historic moment for the region, as well as for Albany Med. Do not let yourself be fooled. There is still a tremendous amount of work to be done. So when we look back in history at this date, with a global pandemic, we will say that this was the beginning of the end in the Capital Region."

McKenna says administration of the vaccine on campus was developed using state guidelines and had representation across the entire institution. Health care workers and front line workers in areas of higher risk for the transmission of the virus are being given the first shots.

McKenna expects more vaccine will be made available by Pfizer and by Moderna.

Emergency and Critical Care physician Greg Wu is one of the first five employees to receive the vaccine. Save for a little "pinch" he says the injection was painless.

"I feel honored that that I get to be in this group that takes care of patients. And certainly I feel that it's, it's quite an opportunity that we have here at Albany Med."

Still unknown: how long immunity from the vaccine will last, as opposed to "natural immunity" someone who recovered from COVID-19 might have. Anthony DiSpirito is director of pharmacy for Albany Med.

"A lot of that is yet to be determined. The durability I think is what you're speaking to; the durability of this vaccine is still yet to be determined. The durability of the immune response post COVID-19 infection is yet to be determined. There was some reports of a subsequent infections after people have had COVID-19 and recovered from it. We don't know quite yet how durable this vaccine is."

The CDC advises those who may have had COVID-19 or were tested for anti-bodies and the test came back positive to take the vaccine, "because you can catch it more than once."

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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