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Upstate delivers region's first COVID-19 vaccine

Kenzo B. Mukendi, a member of Upstate University Hospital’s Environmental Services team, become the first person in Central New York to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

Mukendi, who cleans patient rooms on Upstate’s COVID units, received the vaccine Dec. 15, hours after it arrived at Upstate.

About 50 employees received the vaccine Tuesday and more than 200 rolled up their sleeves to get their injections Thursday. Upstate is following the vaccination priority plan set out by the state Health Department to determine who will receive the vaccine. 

The first vaccination was covered by Syracuse media in the KInney Performance Center of Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital. After receiving his vaccination, Mukendi said: It is my duty to do my job,” he said. “I can’t be scared.”

Registered nurse Suzanne Buck, who was also one of the first to get the vaccine, she told the media gathered that she had no concerns about the vaccine. “I’m so happy to be getting it."

The 75-pound box of the vaccine supply arrived after 9 a.m. Tuesday, and in less than three hours, the vaccinations had begun.

The Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was granted emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration Dec. 11.  Upstate is a clinical trial site for the Pfizer/BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine. More than 300 participants from the local community are participating in the trial.

Upstate’s leaders applauded the arrival of the vaccine.

Upstate Medical University President Mantosh Dewan, MD: “The Pfzier/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 University Hospital CEO Robert Corona, DO, MBA: “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.”

Chief Medical Officer Amy Tucker, MD: “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 Nursing Officer Nancy Page, MS, RN:  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 ground breaking and a huge sign of much-needed hope.”

Stephen Thomas, MD, chief of Infectious Disease and coordinating principal investigator for the world-wide Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine trial: “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.”


Caption: Kenzo B. Mukendi, a member of Upstate University Hospital’s Environmental Services team, becomes the first person in Central New York to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.