ALBANY — The vast majority of the residents at Shaker Place, the county run nursing home, began receiving COVID-19 vaccinations on Monday, Dec. 21.
County Executive Dan McCoy said of the 172 residents at Shaker Place, 150 have agreed to get vaccinated while the other 22 either are waiting to see the effects or have health care proxies and their caretakers have not yet been contacted.
Of the 200 workers at the nursing home, though, he said only about half are willing to take the shot.
“That was more alarming to me than the residents,” he said. “I don’t want to mandate anyone get the vaccine but people have to realize if we want to move on in life, and return to any type of normalcy this is the way to go. We have to sit them down and find out what the issues are, but mandating anyone to take the vaccine is not the way to go.”
The second shot of a two-shot series will take place in three weeks and it will be at least another three weeks before the impact of the vaccine is seen in the individuals and longer before society as a whole begins to reap the benefits.
The vaccine was being delivered to residents of nursing homes across the county and state, but it is now known what the response rate was among the residents.
Last week, front line hospital health care workers began taking the first of two shots of vaccine produced by Pfizer. The federal Food and Drug Admiration also gave an emergency OK to a vaccine produced by Moderna, which will be available locally in the coming days.
Unlike traditional vaccines, the two available now for use against COVID do not inject a person with the virus. Rather, they use a technology called messenger RNA, or a simulated piece of the protein that attaches the virus to the body to trick the body into thinking the virus is coming and in response, the body produces antibodies.
“Once the body creates that immune response, both the protein and the mRNA are eliminated while the antibodies stick around to protect the person in the future,” according to Health.com.
Phase IA of the vaccine rollout in this state is health care workers and residents of nursing homes. Phase IB is anyone more than 75 years old and Phase IC is anyone 64 to 75 with high risk medical conditions. Phase 2 includes K-12 teachers and staff, critical workers in high risk settings, those with comorbidities and all older adults not included in Phase 1. Phase III includes all young adults and those workers deemed essential but not in high risk settings.
The vaccination roll out comes at a time when positive cases and hospitalizations are skyrocketing across the country, in this state and the eight-county Capital Region district.
From Sunday to Monday, there were 221 new positive cases in Albany County bringing the total to 9,284 since the pandemic took hold in March. From Monday, Dec. 14 through Monday Dec. 21, there have been a total of 1,333 new cases.
The number of county residents hospitalized jumped from 86 on Monday, Dec. 14, to 113 a week later, the highest number since May 15, McCoy said.
Over the past week, 13 residents died of COVID bringing the total to 194 as of Dec. 21.
On the plus side of the equation, on Dec. 21, 7,679 people who tested positive recovered, an increase of 1,367.
Dr. Dennis McKenna, CEO at Albany Medical Center Hospital, said the number of admissions continues to go up not only at his hospital but across the eight-county Capital District Region. As of Wednesday, Dec. 16, he said during an appearance on Talk1300 radio, there were 76 at Albany Med with 17 in the ICU. In hospitals across the eight counties, there were 288. The people who are being admitted, he said, are those older than 70 and those with an underlying health issue like hypertension, obesity, lung disease or diabetes.
“We talk about so many things to prevent the transmission of the virus, it is really important, especially as we head into the winter season, there are things people can do to make themselves healthier,” he said. “We can control hypertension and we can control diabetes. People can exercise more. We don’t talk enough about taking control of our own health, that is an important part of controlling the virus as well.”