COV Dr Sushilkumar Satish Gupta 2.jpg

Dr. Sushilkumar Satish Gupta was one of the first Cayuga Medical health professionals to receive the Pfizer COVID vaccine.

ITHACA, NY -- Following historic development, research, and vetting processes, a vaccine is available for COVID-19 and has begun to be distributed to healthcare professionals in Tompkins County. The Health Department, in partnership with Cayuga Health System, has been planning for distribution and administration of the COVID-19 vaccine and Cayuga Health System started immunizing individuals on Dec. 21. Vaccine supply is now available in Tompkins County and the Health Department is providing updates about the importance of getting the vaccine to keep our community safe and information about how you will know when you can receive the vaccine.

“We are urging everyone in our community to get vaccinated for COVID-19 as it becomes available. It is important for everyone who is medically able to receive the vaccine to get it to achieve enough immunity in our community to stop the pandemic and protect yourself and loved ones. Herd immunity or community immunity means a high percentage of people – at least 70% of the population – are vaccinated and their immunity will stop the virus from spreading, as well as protect those who are unable to get the vaccine. We are encouraging 100% of those who are able, to get vaccinated,” stated Frank Kruppa, Public Health Director.

The vaccine will be available in phases determined by New York State, as seen below:

Group 1

  • High-risk hospital workers (e.g. emergency room, intensive care unit, and pulmonary department staff)
  • Nursing home residents and staff
  • All long-term and congregate care residents and staff
  • EMS workers
  • Other health care workers, coroners and medical examiners

NOTE: Under the federal Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program, employees of CVS, Walgreens, and other select pharmacies will vaccinate residents and staff in long-term care facilities including nursing homes, much like they do for the flu vaccine.

Group 2

  • First responders (fire, police, National Guard)
  • Teachers/school staff (in-person instructions), childcare providers.
  • Public health workers
  • Essential frontline workers who regularly interact with public (pharmacists, grocery store workers, transit employees, etc.) or maintain critical infrastructure
  • Other long-term care facility patients and individuals living in other congregate settings
  • Individuals in general population deemed particularly high risk due to comorbidities and health conditions

Group 3

  • Individuals over 65
  • Individuals under 65 with high-risk health conditions

Group 4

  • All other essential workers

Group 5

  • Healthy adults and children. State officials estimate that vaccinations for adults not in a high priority group will begin in mid-winter. A COVID-19 vaccine may not be available for young children until more studies are completed

“We have seen the devastating effect of this virus on our high-risk population, especially seniors residing in nursing homes. Some of our local nursing homes have already received vaccine administered by the State. Similar to monitoring any positive cases in nursing homes, the State will oversee the vaccination program for long-term care facilities,” stated Kruppa.

The available COVID-19 vaccines – Pfizer and Moderna – require two shots over a three-week and four-week period respectively. During the vaccination process, everyone must continue to take precautions like wearing a mask, washing hands, and maintaining distance from others. It is possible for people to contract and test positive for COVID-19 even after this first dose of the vaccine. The vaccine will not cause a positive test result. The second dose is critical to ensure full protection from the virus.

“The clinical trials for the vaccines demonstrate their effectiveness and that the vaccine will help protect you and your family. The trials report that some people feel tired or mild muscle soreness after they get the shot, similar to how you might feel after a flu shot. This is the body’s immune response being activated and a sign that the vaccine is starting to work. No serious side effects have been reported,” stated Kruppa. 

“We understand that there may be individuals who are hesitant to receive the vaccine at this time. While we are currently in the emergency use authorization phase of these vaccines, every study and trial was reviewed by the FDA and an additional safety board. I commend my medical colleagues who have already been vaccinated and I plan to get the vaccine when it is available,” continued Kruppa. 

Cayuga Health System is the lead vaccine administrator in our community and the Health Department is partnering to with them to ensure effective distribution of the vaccine. CHS began administering vaccine to frontline healthcare workers and had their first open vaccination clinic on Tuesday, Dec. 29 for the high-risk priority population groups listed above.

“Cayuga Health System has continued to be a great partner since the beginning of the pandemic when they first stepped up with the Mass Sampling Site and now with vaccination distribution to ensure our community is protected and can return to normal. The first large-scale vaccination clinic was held at the old Sears building at the Mall and was very targeted to the priority population groups. 390 people were vaccinated at the clinic yesterday. Starting next week, the vaccine eligibility will expand to all healthcare workers and will continue to broaden to the general population over the next few weeks. We ask the public to continue being patient and follow our updates so you know when to get your vaccine,” stated Kruppa.

Join Tompkins County Officials and Cayuga Health System CEO Dr. Martin Stallone for a virtual COVID-19 Town Hall on Wednesday, January 6 at 4:00pm. The Town Hall will be streamed live to YouTube, members of the public can submit questions for the panelists to Dominick Recckio, Tompkins County Communications Director at

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