Administer doses of covid vaccine 24 hours a day? In New York, three mass vaccination sites, managed by the state, have taken the plunge: the Javits Center in Manhattan, the Yankees stadium in the Bronx and the Exhibition Center, on the Syracuse side. This pilot project was set up as soon as the United States authorized the use of a third vaccine, that of Johnson & Johnson. Goal: not to waste time and vaccinate as many people as possible to be able to move on to the next category of “eligible” people.
Already more than 100 million doses
The huge Javits Center is the convention center where Hillary Clinton hoped to break through the glass ceiling and celebrate her victory in November 2016. In the midst of the pandemic, when refrigerated trucks were used as relief morgues, it was turned into a hospital the country. Now, New Yorkers receive doses of the Pfizer vaccine there during the day. Then, between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., doses of that of Johnson & Johnson were administered there, for a few days, until the stock was exhausted.
Joe Biden, on the other hand, has put in place a precise, efficient distribution strategy with new funds and federal centers.
Same procedure on the side of the Yankees stadium, watched by soldiers of the National Guard. With slightly different schedules. During the day, those who have an appointment – only residents of the neighborhood, who meet the current eligibility criteria – receive Pfizer and in the evening, between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m., Johnson & Johnson. At least that was the case until last week. On the Syracuse side, this vaccine was administered between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
By launching this pilot project, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo clarified that these nightly vaccinations would take place until the doses ordered from Johnson & Johnson were exhausted. This is now the case, with nearly 165,000 doses used. But these night vaccinations could resume as soon as new doses are delivered, and extend to other centers. President Joe Biden has just given a boost to the vaccination campaign, by ordering 100 million additional doses from the American manufacturer. He promised that all adult Americans should, by May 1, be able to register for an appointment, after the milestone of 100 million doses used in total has just been crossed. Nearly 22% of the American population has already received at least one dose of the vaccine, as the coronavirus has killed more than 526,000 Americans.
What to set an example
Having become a mass vaccination center in January, the Javits Center broke a record on Saturday, with 13,432 injections made in a single day. Something to cheer up Andrew Cuomo, eager for good news as he faces unprecedented criticism for his attitude towards women. As for the night-time vaccinations, they were successful: in a few hours, thousands of appointments were made. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has the advantage of being administered in a single dose. Motivation enough to push New Yorkers to get up in the middle of the night to get vaccinated.
“New York, the city that never sleeps, has something to set an example,” comments Julien Cavanagh, neurologist specializing in infectious and autoimmune diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. At the height of the pandemic, he was working in New York, at a Brooklyn hospital. The doctor praises Joe Biden’s strategy. “Let’s be fair: Donald Trump helped design vaccines quickly, but then left the US states to fend for themselves. Joe Biden, on the other hand, has set up a precise, efficient distribution strategy, with new funds to facilitate the vaccination campaign and federal centers to support the states. For now, it is working: nearly 2.4 million doses are now injected every day. “
Julien Cavanagh does not hide the fear of a fourth wave, however, due to the too rapid relaxation of public health measures. However, he hopes it will be less fatal since those at risk will almost all be vaccinated. The case also remains very political: according to a recent poll by CBS, a third of Republicans do not want to be vaccinated, against 10% of Democrats.
Vaccinating at night is for the moment almost specific to New York. Only one other center does so for the moment in the United States, near the Cardinals football stadium in Glendale, Arizona. The injections are done in a huge parking lot. Patients stay in their cars. In Seattle, on the West Coast, there were curious night scenes in January in front of two city hospitals, with people in their pajamas ready to be vaccinated. But it was for a completely different reason: a refrigerator containing 1,600 doses of the Moderna vaccine had broken down and the doses had to be sold out quickly. At 3:30 in the morning, all had also found a taker.
The idea of vaccinating at night to speed up the immunization of the population is under discussion in Canada. It was also discussed in England. But for now, the Americans are the only ones to have practiced it. Each American state vaccinates at a different rate and with different criteria. Since March 10, in New York State for example, every over 60 years, individuals with comorbid factors and certain categories of essential workers are eligible for the vaccine. Alaska has just taken a step forward: it is the first state to open up access to the vaccine to everyone over 16 years of age. Mississippi follows suit on Tuesday.
In Europe too, in Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom in particular, stadiums, skating rinks, museums and even cathedrals have been requisitioned to become centers for mass vaccination. A recent article from New England Journal of Medicine believes they are essential to stem the spread of the pandemic. Since March 11, the EU has given the green light to its fourth vaccine, that of Johnson & Johnson, by ordering, as a first step, 200 million doses. A decision which, despite the current difficulties, should accelerate the pace of vaccinations. And, who knows, maybe take a little inspiration from New York, which always sees the big picture.