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Stay up to date with the latest news on the coronavirus and COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. We'll post regular updates from NPR and regional news from the WRVO newsroom. You can also find updates on our live blog.

A day of celebration: Upstate Hospital workers are first to receive COVID-19 vaccine in CNY

Frontline health care workers at Upstate University Hospital were the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Onondaga County on Tuesday. Vaccines were administered within an hour and a half of the hospital receiving them.

Kenzo Mukendi works in housekeeping at Upstate. He cleans the rooms of COVID patients. He’s originally from the Congo and was the first to receive the vaccine in central New York. His message to the community is to get the vaccine.

“They have to do that," Mukendi said. "We need that. We know the COVID go up every day. That’s one of the things to help us to prevent that.”

Distribution of the vaccine will be a tiered approach with health care workers, nursing home residents and staff being among the first to receive it.

Suzanne Buck is an emergency room nurse at Upstate. She went down to Stony Brook University Hospital on Long Island in April and saw the worst of COVID-19.

“The deaths were unbelievable," Buck said. "One day they were here and the next they were gone.”

Now, she’s also among the first to be vaccinated.

“I feel like if everyone wants to go back to a normal life, I think it’s so important for people to really get this vaccine," Buck said. "Studies have shown there are minimal side effects.”

Frontline workers who get the vaccine will still have to continue to wear all their personal protective equipment, and will have to get a second dose of the vaccine in a few weeks. 

Upstate CEO Robert Corona said starting Wednesday, they’ll be doing hundreds of vaccinations every day, as will the other hospitals in the area.

“I think as people start to see more and more people get vaccinated and see that they’re safe, they’ll be comfortable taking the vaccine," Corona said. "It’s an impressive feat. It’s kind of a man on the moon.”

Upstate participated in a clinical trial of the vaccine, earlier this summer. Some of the people that were in the trial who got the placebo, will be able to get the vaccine. Upstate President Mantosh Dewan said the data is strong; this vaccine is more effective than almost any other.

“I’m confident by the middle of the year, we will be in a much, much better place,” Dewan said. “As I keep saying, a small prick for man, a giant leap for mankind.”

The general public will be able to get the vaccine sometime next year.