SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — The first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer was shipped out on Sunday from a plant in Michigan, and on Tuesday, the first doses arrived in Central New York at Upstate University Hospital.
The first person to receive the vaccine in Central New York happened just after noon on Tuesday. Kenzo Mukendi works for the Environmental Services Division at Upstate University Hospital. He is responsible for cleaning rooms, including those of COVID-19 patients.
Mukendi and four other Upstate Hospital employees are in that historical group — each of them caring for COVID-19 patients or cleaning their rooms.
“It is my duty to do the job,” said Mukendi. “I can’t be scared because I need these people to be good also, that’s my responsibility. If I go down, they go down also.”
On Tuesday morning, Mukendi was getting ready for the day when out of nowhere, he was asked the question he’s been waiting for.
“I was ready to go to the room for the COVID patient, and they asked me, ‘Do you want a vaccine?’ I said, ‘That’s what I’m here for,'” Mukendi said.
Click the video below to watch Mukendi receive the vaccine:
It is the same story for a nurse who volunteered to go to Stony Brook University at the height of the first wave back in April. She works in the Emergency Room at the hospital.
The shots got to Upstate around 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday and within 90 minutes, a lucky group of five received the vaccine.
Upstate plans to vaccinate 55 employees and then hundreds every day afterward.
“There’s a little bit of relief here and, a while ago, I was saying, ‘Oh that’s the light at the end of the tunnel,’ and it really looked like a train, to be honest with you. And now it’s, yeah, we actually may be able to get out of this thing,” said Dr. Stephen Thomas, MD, chief of Infectious Disease and coordinating principal investigator for the world-wide Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine trial.
Even though it will take some time before the general public can receive the vaccine, these doctors are confident it will move mountains once they do.
“It’s great technology, the data is solid,” said Dr. Robert Corona at Upstate University Hospital. “And I think as people start to see more and more people get vaccinated and see that they’re safe, they’ll be comfortable taking the vaccine.”
And for Mukendi? It was painless.
NewsChannel 9 spoke with Dr. Robert Corona on Tuesday about how it felt to see the vaccine being distributed in Central New York. You can watch that full interview below:
The first New Yorker received the COVID-19 vaccine on Monday. Sandra Lindsay is an ICU nurse who works in Queens. In a press conference with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Lindsay was seen getting the vaccine.
I would like to thank all the frontline workers, all my colleagues, who’ve been doing a yeoman’s job throughout this pandemic all over the world. I am hopeful… I feel like healing is coming and this marks the beginning of the end of a very painful time in our history. I want to instill public confidence that the vaccine is safe.Sandra Lindsay — ICU nurse
It was nearly a week ago that Cuomo held a press conference where he outlined who would get the vaccine first. The first group to receive the vaccine will include high-risk and nursing home residents and staff. The second group to receive the vaccine will be long term care workers, staff, and residents, along with EMS workers. After that, essential workers and then the general population will be eligible for the vaccination.
Upstate University Hospital has been preparing for weeks for the arrival of the vaccine. Earlier in December, Thomas spoke with NewsChannel 9 about the approval process and who would receive the vaccine first.
“There are priority groups,” Thomas said. “And advisory groups that advise the FDA and they are coming up with what those groups should look like.”
Leaders at Upstate University Hospital applauded the arrival of the vaccine in our area.
The Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine is full of hope and gives us perhaps our greatest resource in the fight against COVID-19. I applaud researchers around the globe for their unrelenting work at developing this vaccine. I also applaud the more than 300 individuals who enrolled in this vaccine’s clinical trial at Upstate (as well as the literally thousands more who were on a waiting list) and who have helped to bring us to this day. As vaccination delivery plans emerge, we must be mindful that we will still need to wear masks, and be physically distant as immunity to the virus builds throughout our communities. Thank you for doing your part in keeping yourself and others safe.Upstate Medical University President Mantosh Dewan, MD
As the vaccine gets delivered throughout the nation and as our frontline workers roll up their sleeves, we now have an effective tool to fight this deadly virus. I am proud of our scientists, our healthcare workers, and those who participate in clinical trials to save others as we challenge this pandemic. I am especially proud of those fighting at the front line…nurses, environmental services personnel, other health professionals like respiratory therapists, and our physicians. There is great hope for us all with the arrival of the vaccine, but I will echo my colleagues that until we gain widespread vaccination, we must continue to take all precautions to keep this virus at bay within our local communities and our families: Mask up, be socially distant and practice proper hand hygiene. Be positive and stay negative as I have heard said by many.Upstate University Hospital CEO Robert Corona, DO, MBA
The announcement of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine’s approval by the FDA and its rollout across the country moves us closer to widespread vaccination that will help us win the fight against COVD-19. I applaud the vaccine researchers, the clinical trial participants who have moved us quickly to this momentous occasion, and our frontline health care workers who will be among the first to receive the vaccine. Despite this milestone, we must continue to be vigilant in our communities and families. Wear a mask, continue to socially distance and practice safe hand-washing.Chief Medical Officer Amy Tucker, MD
To have this much-needed vaccine will protect all of our communities. This is a critical step in assuring we have the resources needed in nurses, doctors, pharmacists, respiratory therapists, and so many others to continue to care for this large region Upstate serves. It is indeed groundbreaking and a huge sign of much-needed hope.Chief Nursing Office Nancy Page, MS, RN
Thomas said, “Widespread vaccination with safe and efficacious vaccines, combined with ramping up masking and avoiding gatherings, could dramatically impact our state’s epidemic curve, save lives, and bring much-needed relief to our health care system and health care teams. I eagerly await my turn to be vaccinated.”