A frontline worker receiving the Moderna vaccine at Stony Brook University. Stony Brook will be a point of distribution (POD) for the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination plan. ALEK LEWIS/THE STATESMAN

The New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) has named Stony Brook University a point of distribution (POD) for the state’s coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination plan, making it the largest state-run POD in Suffolk County.

According to the university’s vaccine information fact page, the POD will be housed at the Research and Development Park on West Campus. It started administering vaccines on Jan. 18 and will operate from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day. Those looking to receive the vaccine can use the NYSDOH’s new website to determine eligibility and schedule appointments for vaccinations up to 14 weeks in advance.

New York State is currently receiving approximately 250,000 vaccines per week to distribute to state run POD’s, hospitals, private practices, community centers and pharmacies.

In a press conference on Jan. 15, Governor Andrew Cuomo said that 731,285 people have already received their first dose of the vaccine, with 96,430 of those recipients having received their second dose, which makes the vaccine effective. Both Stony Brook University’s main hospital and Southampton hospital have distributed 100% of their vaccine doses in the first three weeks since vaccinations started. 

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The NYSDOH also expanded vaccine eligibility within the second part of phase one of their vaccination plan to in-person instructors at colleges and schools.

Part one of the first phase, phase 1A, prioritizes front line workers who are most at risk for catching the virus — including doctors, hospital workers, emergency medical services workers and group home residents and staff. The estimated number of workers prioritized in phase 1A is approximately 2.1 million, according to Cuomo.

The next phase, phase 1B, prioritizes an extremely wide range of people, including individuals 65 or older, firefighters, law enforcement, in-person faculty and staff at grade schools, public transit workers, childcare workers and front facing grocery store workers. The estimated number of workers prioritized in phase 1B is approximately 5 million, according to Cuomo.

Vaccine distributors were eligible to begin vaccinating phase 1B individuals on Jan. 11. However, the university has said that it will not distribute any vaccines to people who have yet to receive the vaccine until all the people who have already received the first batch of the vaccine have received both doses.

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In his press conference, Cuomo also emphasized that hospital workers should be the first ones to receive the vaccine, in order to prevent shortage of staff in the event that hospitals become overwhelmed with patients. As of Jan. 15, 81.8% of staff at Stony Brook Southampton hospital and 70% of staff at the university hospital have been vaccinated..

United University Professions, a higher education union that represents faculty and staff at the university, said that although they celebrate the inclusion of instructors for phase 1B, they believed that vaccine priority should extend to other staff members, including librarians, resident hall staff and information technology staff.

“These crucial employees have not been included in the 1B classification – and that means they are not eligible for vaccinations as we begin the spring semester,” UUP President Frederick Kowal said in a press release on Jan 15. “This is unacceptable, especially when the number of professionals is far smaller than the hundreds of thousands of our K-12 colleagues being vaccinated as part of 1B – which we welcome and applaud.”

Stony Brook officials told The Statesman that the university is currently not requiring in-person instructors for the Spring 2021 semester to receive the vaccine. 

For those not eligible for the vaccine under the priority phase 1 group, there is currently no scheduled time that the vaccine will be available to the greater public. The NYSDOH has told the university that it will take at least 14 weeks to administer the vaccine to the entire phase 1 group.

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