January 13, 2021: Update on COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

Dear Colleagues,

Vaccinations are continuing today, January 13, and are still not complete for individuals who directly interact with patients and for all care team members and staff who provide in-person support to those delivering patient care (Phase 1a). We encourage those in 1a to come this week to get vaccinated.

As you have heard, we are now also in Phase 1b, which includes individuals age 65 and older, education workers (through grade 12), in-person college faculty and instructors, and public transit and public safety employees as well as some additional frontline workers. Please see the NYS site if you are interested in seeing the full scope of 1b.

NYP and ColumbiaDoctors patients will be vaccinated at The Armory, at 168th and Fort Washington, and we are notifying them that they will be able to schedule a vaccine appointment through the Connect patient portal. New appointments are made available regularly and the number will increase as the site ramps up to full capacity. Appointments will be required for patients. We know that some of our patients may face challenges accessing the electronic system and therefore there are processes in place to help enroll patients into Connect as well as to help those without access to internet. PLEASE NOTE: THE DEMAND FOR VACCINES EXCEEDS THE SUPPLY WHICH WILL BE THE CASE FOR MONTHS.

Individuals 65 and over who are patients of ColumbiaDoctors, NYP, or Weill Cornell and are Columbia employees will be vaccinated in the Black Building (not The Armory). We have begun notifying those individuals age 65 and over when they can come. Eligible employees should not bring spouses to the Black Building; they need to make an appointment to go to the Armory if they qualify.

Immunocompromised individuals will also become eligible to get vaccinated under new CDC guidelines, but NYS is still working with the CDC to determine who qualifies as part of that group.

Today, 1st doses for employees in Phase 1a continue in Alumni Auditorium in the William Black Building, 650 West 168th Street (corner of 168th and Fort Washington Avenue) from 6 am to 9 pm. All 2nd doses will be continue to be administered in the Myrna Daniels Auditorium in Milstein Hospital.

Columbia employees who work at the Allen Hospital and Lawrence Hospital can be vaccinated there, on site, 6:45 am to 4 pm through Saturday this week.

We ask again that you please do not come to be vaccinated if you have not received specific instructions from the University COVID Director. New York State requires self-attestation that must be signed at the vaccination site attesting that a person is eligible for vaccination based on the current phases of distribution. On site facilities staff have the list of names of eligible people for this week.

Things to Keep in Mind for Second Dose Vaccinations (Individuals in Phase 1a)

Please come, when possible, for your second dose at the scheduled time as it will be critical in helping NYP make staffing and vaccine supply decisions based on those appointments, but please do keep to your scheduled day. Please note that many second dose appointments are now generically being made at 7 am on the day it is due, but you do not need to come at 7 am. You can come anytime that day but again please make sure to come that day.

Second dose reminders will be sent via Connect. For questions about where/when to go for your second dose on each campus, please go to the Employee Information section on the VaccineTogetherNY.org site. This link also contains information about how to sign up for Connect. Information is also available at 646.697.VACC.

We know that many of you have family members and friends who are also now eligible in 1a and 1b. The Governor announced an expansion of locations where eligible New Yorkers can get COVID-19 vaccines at sites located throughout the city. Please see this website for further details for eligible groups, locations, and scheduling: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/covid/covid-19-vaccine-locations.page

As of today, nearly 35,000 staff at NewYork-Presbyterian, Weill Cornell, and Columbia have been vaccinated. There have also been over 5,200 second doses administered. First dose vaccinations include over 14,400 individuals on the Columbia Campus who are working in patient care areas, with over 6,500 of them Columbia employees and students. The CDC reports that there have been over 9.3 million people who have received their first dose of the vaccine.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The FAQ documents on the CUIMC COVID Vaccine Information page continue to be updated so please check the site for the latest versions. Below are the Questions of the Day:

Can persons with an autoimmune disease receive the vaccine?

Data for people with autoimmune disease are currently limited, but there were patients with autoimmune disorders requiring treatment included in the Pfizer vaccine trial. The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) currently recommends offering the COVID-19 vaccine to people with autoimmune disease with counseling regarding the lack of data in these individuals and the potential for lower vaccine effectiveness due to a reduced immune response.

Do we know if the vaccine is safe in people with Type 1 Diabetes?

There are no current contraindications to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine for individuals who have comorbid medical conditions including diabetes. Based on data from clinical trials, the vaccine appears to be safe and effective in people with diabetes. Data are currently limited on those who are immunocompromised or taking immunosuppressive medications and the FDA warns that these individuals may have diminished immune response to the vaccine. However, immunocompromised individuals may still receive the vaccine if no other contraindications are present.

What was the racial/ethnic diversity in the Moderna and Pfizer trials and is there information about how many people with comorbidities and autoimmune diseases were included in the trials?

It is important to note that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine trials were designed to increase the number of persons from racial and ethnic minorities, as well as those with medical conditions (e.g., chronic lung disease, cardiac disease, severe obesity, diabetes, HIV, etc.) that placed them at higher risk of severe COVID-19 disease. Approximately 9-10% of participants were Black/African-American (close to the approximately 13% of Americans who are Black/African-American), 21-28% were Hispanic, and 21-22% of participants had the medical conditions as above. The vaccine safety (side effects/reactions) and efficacy were similar in all of these subgroups.

Thank you and hope you continue to stay safe!

Magda Sobieszczyk, MD, MPH
Chief of Infectious Diseases and Co-Chair of the CUIMC COVID-19 Vaccine Committee

Melissa Stockwell, MD, MPH
Chief of the Division of Child and Adolescent Health and Co-Chair of the CUIMC COVID-19 Vaccine Committee