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Testing Center Moves; Visitation Suspension

North Country Receives First Doses of COVID-19 Vaccine

Media Contact: Pam Klosowski
December 15, 2020


 North Country Receives First Doses of COVID-19 Vaccine

[St. Lawrence Health’s Associate Chief Medical Officer and St. Lawrence County Board of Health President Andrew Williams, MD, FACP, receives the first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine administered at Canton-Potsdam Hospital. CPH Director of Nursing Education Amy Nugent injects him with the shot.]


POTSDAM, NY – St. Lawrence Health (SLHS) has received an initial shipment of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines, and expects the second half of the doses to arrive in approximately 20 days. This vaccine is administered as a two-dose series, three weeks apart.

The System will be vaccinating its clinical staff members at Canton-Potsdam Hospital, Gouverneur Hospital, Massena Hospital, and other neighboring hospital facilities in accordance with governmental guidelines.

The management, allocation, and distribution of the vaccine in the U.S. is being handled under Operation Warp Speed. Northern New York was expected to receive 3,700 of the first 85,000 shots in the initial shipment; half of the 170,000 doses. The second half of the order is expected to arrive 21 days afterward.

“The New York State Department of Health has directed all hospitals and health systems to follow their Guidance for Prioritization of Healthcare Personnel in Hospitals for COVID-19 Vaccination during the initial roll-out of the program based on a limited vaccine supply. Hospitals and health systems must be prepared for an initial supply of vaccine that will not cover the entire healthcare workforce at once,” noted SLHS Chief Administrative Officer Jeremy Slaga.

“Healthcare hospital personnel are designated a top priority because of their exposure to the virus and their critical role of keeping hospitals functioning. Not every hospital will receive the vaccine in the first allocation; however, all hospital personnel working in high-risk settings will be afforded equitable access to this vaccine,” he added.

“As a recipient of the initial distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, Canton-Potsdam Hospital will work with neighboring facilities and administer the reserved portion of this first shipment to staff,” Mr. Slaga stated. “The intent of this allocation methodology is to create equity across regions and hospital systems and the communities they serve.”

St. Lawrence Health’s Associate Chief Medical Officer and St. Lawrence County Board of Health President Andrew Williams, MD, FACP, was the first staff member of the System to receive the vaccine on Tuesday. He noted the distribution of the product is cause for excitement in the medical field, as well as throughout the general public.

“This vaccine is a ray of light.  Hopefully the introduction of the vaccine will represent the beginning of the end of the pandemic,” Dr. Williams said. “The arrival of a safe, effective vaccine can only be viewed as a huge step ahead.

“I look forward to it being administered throughout the community. It is so important for North Country residents to receive the shots to protect themselves, their family, and the community. It is terribly sad to see people dying from COVID-19, and it is important for people to understand that many who have recovered remain with disabilities as a result of the infection,” he added.

Pfizer-BioNTech announced this past Friday that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the Emergency Use Authorization of the mRNA vaccine against COVID-19 in individuals 16 years of age or older.

Pfizer-BioNTech has reported the vaccine, which is administered into the muscle, may not protect everyone against COVID-19. The company also said the duration period for protection against COVID-19 after receiving the vaccine is currently unknown.

Adverse reactions reported in clinical trials of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine include injection site pain, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, fever, injection site swelling, injection site redness, nausea, feeling unwell, and swollen lymph nodes. Severe allergic reactions have included difficulty breathing, swelling of the face and throat, rapid heartbeat, rash over the body, and dizziness/weakness.

The website Let’s Get Immunized NY ( states “Vaccines are one of the greatest contributions to public health in the modern era and they are most effective if everyone receives them. This is known as herd immunity.”