The Floating Hospital received its first shipment of the Moderna vaccine on December 21, and began vaccinating staff members that day. According to Dr. Shani Andre, the hospital’s chief medical officer, 59 percent of the staff has been vaccinated as of January 14.
“We got a good response from the staff,” she said. “People wanted to be first in line to get the vaccine and to show their support of the vaccine.
"Part of it is staff seeing other staff getting it," she added. "They haven't had adverse effects. Their comfort levels have increased."
Andre said the vaccine came as multi-dose vials, and can be frozen for up to six months. Once out of the freezer, they have to be used within 30 days. At room temperature, the vaccine must be used within 12 hours.
“It was about scheduling and being tight about it so we don’t waste any doses,” she said.
On Monday, Governor Andrew Cuomo allowed a larger portion of the public to receive the vaccine. In addition to health care workers, residents and staff at long-term care facilities, now older adults over 65, grocery workers, first responders, educators and other frontline workers are eligible for the COVID vaccine.
Since the change, Andre said the clinic has administered about 40 vaccines a day, though the demand from patients is closer to 100 per day.
"What we've seen since that time is a huge increase in demand for the vaccine, and a lack of appropriate supply," she said. "The supply has stayed the same."
As COVID-19 positivity rates and hospitalizations continue to rise in New York City, Andre said she hopes the vaccine will reinforce that people have to do their part to slow the spread.
“We don’t want to be in the same place that we were,” she said, referring to the early months of the pandemic. “I hope that means we’re getting to a better place, that we’re turning a corner and decreasing the curve.
“It’s not an end-all-be-all in terms of ending the pandemic,” Andre added. “But we know the death rate will start to come down.”
If she has a patient going into the emergency room with a heart attack or a stroke, for example, she hopes that there will be an ICU bed for them, rather than the patient being placed in a hallway like at the beginning of the pandemic, when ICU beds were filled with COVID patients.
The Floating Hospital, which provides primary, dental and behavioral health services, as well as health education, to patients living in more than 300 shelters and domestic violence safe houses throughout the city, is also serving as a COVID-19 testing site.
Andre said the need for testing has not decreased. In fact, around mid-November, she said the demand for testing peaked.
“A lot of it is driven around travel. People traveling for Thanksgiving wanted to get tested,” she said. “We saw that same demand continue through December, pre- and post-travel.”
The clinic will move to a new home in Long Island City later this year, and will continue to support patients in their satellite clinics at family homeless shelters and public housing complexes in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx.
“We remain a resource for the community,” Andre added.