NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Hundreds of nursing homes across New York began administering COVID-19 vaccinations to residents and staff Monday, and the first doses of the newly authorized Moderna vaccine are expected to arrive in New York City.
Health officials say New York City is vaccinating at twice the pace of the rest of the country, with 42% of vaccine doses having been administered in New York City, over double the national average of 19%.
"Hope is on the horizon in New York City," Mayor Bill de Blasio said. "We are moving full steam ahead to get out healthcare workers and nursing homes the vaccines they need to win the battle against the virus once and for all."
Kelley Dixon 78, lives at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale and was the first up to receive Pfizer's vaccine. Over the next three days, 600 doses will be administered, and for many, it will get them one step closer to normalcy.
For Dixon, a grandfather, it means taking occasional trips off-campus.
"I don't know what the world looks like anymore," he said. "And I'm anxious to see that.'
During the early days of the pandemic, it is believed 54 residents died at the Hebrew Home of Riverdale, but there have not been any positive cases since June. Now with the vaccine actually there, president and CEO Daniel Reingold says it's a huge relief.
"Our residents are so excited that the possibility of hugging a loved one is going to be coming sooner than later," he said.
The vaccinations began at 10 a.m., with a team of six pharmacists from Walgreens going room by room. Staff from CVS will do the same at other facilities.
"We have a full complement of physicians, as well as a full nursing staff," Reinggold said. "We will follow pharmacists from resident to resident."
Staff will also watch for any possible side effects from the vaccine.
The Hebrew Home of Riverdale is one of 618 long-term care facilities in New York that enrolled in the program.
"It will be a total of about 149,400 doses for this week," New York City Health Commissioner Dr. David Chokshi said. "And the people who will be prioritized to receive the vaccine is laid out in the state prioritization guidance that primarily remains healthcare workers, including people in community health centers, that's the staff and community health centers, as well as our emergency medical services personnel."
Officials tell Eyewitness News the vaccine is not required yet, but that so far, everyone is on board. They believe the benefits far outweigh the risks.
"We're really concerned about Christmas and this whole holiday season, New Year's," de Blasio said. "This is a time that we really could see an intensive spike, and we can't handle another spike."
Dixon says he considers it an honor, and credits scientists for getting this far.
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