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Bronx Community Board 1: COVID vaccines to the rescue

South Bronx residents should expect access to Pfizer’s free COVID-19 vaccine by mid- or late-spring 2021, according to Bronx Community Board 1.

At Board 1’s Zoom meeting on Thursday, Dec. 17, District Manager Cedric Loftin announced that the highly anticipated vaccine is just about set for rollout, to provide desperately needed relief for one of New York City’s hardest-hit neighborhoods.

“You know what we as a district went through last year with the coronavirus. We were Ground Zero,” said Loftin. “We lost more people than any other portion of the Bronx.”

According to the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, 670 people have died from the virus since Feb. 29 in the four zip codes that make up Bronx Community District 1, although not all of those zip codes lie entirely within the district. 

Loftin said he received an update about the vaccine’s implementation during a recent Zoom meeting for Board officials. The update featured Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, who has been persistently attacked by Pres. Donald Trump for running up against Trump’s own policy pronouncements, but whom President-elect Joseph Biden is rehiring for the job.

Lincoln Hospital has already received doses for staff use, Loftin reassured attendees of the Dec. 17 Zoom. Board 1’s Human Health Services & Seniors Chair Brenda Goodwin said that Lincoln, the Bronx’s biggest hospital, has treated 24 patients for COVID-19 symptoms as of Dec. 17, and is prepared for another uptick in cases.

“The floors are ready if we need them,” said Goodwin. “The treatment staff is ready if we need them.”

Pfizer is expected to supply U.S. hospitals with 100 million doses of its vaccine, according to a press release issued in July. In a partnership between the federal government and several drug store chains, pharmacies will also get doses for public use. Stores such as CVS and Walgreens will have pharmacists visit nearby nursing homes to inoculate residents soon, as well.

The vaccine, which is administered in two doses spaced a month apart, has been shown to be more than 90% effective at fighting the virus, according to Pfizer and the Federal Drug Administration.

Still, people under 16 are advised not to take the vaccine because it has not been tested on that age group yet.

Some people who get the vaccine might experience an allergic reaction that includes hives, difficulty breathing, dizziness, fast heartbeat and swelling of the face and throat, but so far only four allergic reactions have been reported — two in the U.K. and two at a hospital in Alaska.

Even with the vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends wearing masks and socially distancing to limit spreading the virus.

The Food and Drug Administration also recently approved a vaccine from the pharmaceutical company Moderna. Vaccines from other drug manufacturers are still being tested. British-based pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca is expected to be available soon as well, including at Montefiore Hospital in the central Bronx, although there have been delays due to minor testing glitch.

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