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covid-19 vaccine

F. William Studier

By Daniel Dunaief

People around the world are lining up, and in some cases traveling great distances, to get vaccinations to COVID-19 that will provide them with immune protection from the virus.

An important step in the vaccinations from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, the two messenger RNA vaccinations, originated with basic research at Brookhaven National Laboratory in the 1980’s, close to 40 years before the pandemic infected millions and killed close to three million people.

At the national laboratory, scientists including F. William Studier, Alan Rosenberg, and the late John Dunn, among others, worked on another virus, called the T7 bacteriophage, which infects bacteria. T7 effectively corrupts a bacteria’s genetic machinery, turning it into a machine that makes copies of itself.

From top graphic, the T7 virus uses RNA polymerase and a promoter to start a process inside a bacteria that makes copies of itself; researchers use copies of the promoter and the polymerase to insert genes that code for a specific protein; the mRNAs are injected into our arms where human ribosomes make COVID-19 spike proteins. Those spike proteins train the attack dog cells of our immune system to recognize the virus if it attempts to invade.

Back in the 1980’s, Studier and Dunn in BNL’s Biology Department were trying to do something no one else had accomplished: they wanted to clone the T7 RNA polymerase. The use of this genetic region, along with a promoter that starts the process of transcription, enabled scientists to mimic the effect of the virus, directing a cell to make copies of genetic sequences or proteins.

The BNL researchers perfected that process amid a time when numerous labs were trying to accomplish the same molecular biological feat.

“Although there were several labs that were trying to clone the T7 RNA polymerase, we understood what made its cloning difficult,” said Alan Rosenberg, who retired as a senior scientist at BNL in 1996. The patented technology “became the general tool that molecular biologists use to produce the RNA and proteins they want to study.”

The scientists who worked on the process, as well as researchers who currently work at BNL, are pleased that this type of effort, which involves a desire for general knowledge and understanding before policy makers and funders are aware of all the implications and benefits, led to such life-saving vaccinations.

“This is an excellent example of the value of basic science in that the practical applications were quite unanticipated,” John Shanklin, Chair of BNL’s Biology Department, wrote in an email. 

“The goal of the work Studier and his team did was to understand fundamental biological principles using a virus that infects bacteria. Once discovered, those principles led to a transformation of how biochemists and biomedical researchers around the world produce and analyze proteins in addition to providing a foundational technology that allowed the rapid development of mRNA vaccines,” he wrote.

Shanklin described Studier, who recruited him to join BNL 30 years ago from Michigan, as a mentor to numerous researchers, including himself. Shanklin credits Studier for helping him develop his career and is pleased that Studier is getting credit for this seminal work.

“I am tremendously proud that the basic research done in the Biology Department has been instrumental in accelerating the production of a vaccine with the potential to save millions of lives worldwide,” Shanklin wrote. “I couldn’t be happier for [Studier] and his team being recognized for their tremendous basic science efforts.”

Steve Binkley, Acting Director of the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, acknowledged the importance of the earlier work.

“The fact that scientific knowledge and tools developed decades ago are now being used to produce today’s lifesaving mRNA vaccines for COVID-19 is a great example of how the Department of Energy’s long-term investments in fundamental research at our National Laboratories can improve American lives today and into the future,” Binkley said in a statement.

Studier explained that his interests were more modest when he started studying this particular virus, which infects the bacteria E. coli.

“T7 was not a well-studied bacteriophage when I came to Brookhaven in 1964,” Studier, who is a senior biophysicist Emeritus, said in a statement. “I was using it to study properties of DNA and decided also to study its molecular genetics and physiology. My goal, of course, was to understand as much as possible about T7 and how it works.”

In an email, Studier said he did not realize the connection between his work and the vaccinations until Venki Ramakrishnan, a Nobel-Prize winning structural biologists from the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK, told him.

“I am pleased that our work with T7 is relevant for fighting this world-wide pandemic,” Studier wrote. “History shows that some of the most useful discoveries come from basic research that could not have been predicted.”

While BNL is one of 17 Department of Energy facilities, it has conducted scientific research in numerous fields.

Several translational achievements originated at BNL, Shanklin wrote, including the thalium stress test for evaluating heart function, the development of Fluoro Deoxy Glucose for Positron Emission Tomography and the first chemical synthesis for human insulin, which allowed human insulin to replace animal insulin.

As for the effort that led to the T7 discoveries, Studier worked with Parichehre Davanloo, who was a postdoctoral fellow, Rosenberg, Dunn and Barbara Moffatt, who was a graduate student.

Rosenberg appreciated the multi-national background of the researchers who came together to conduct this research, as Moffatt is Canadian and Davanloo is Iranian.

Rosenberg added that while the group had “an inkling” of the potential usefulness of the processes they were perfecting, they couldn’t anticipate its value over the next 40 years and, in particular, its current contribution.

“Nobody really understood or thought just how widely spread its use would be,” Rosenberg said. “We certainly had no idea it would be an important element in the technology” that would lead to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccinations.

On April 6, Stony Brook University administered 1,400 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to students living on campus. The mass vaccination day fell on the first day that New York granted eligibility for those 16 of age and older. 

“I’m so thrilled that the eligibility came much earlier than we ever expected,” said Rick Gatteau, vice president for Student Affairs at SBU and dean of students.

The administration sent out an email to residents last Thursday with a link to sign up. Within two hours it was filled, and there is currently a waitlist of 500 students waiting for the next session.

The event took place in the newly constructed Student Union building, where students arrived at their assigned time and were guided through the process by dozens of volunteers. They will return for their second dose on May 4. 

“I felt compelled to get the vaccine”, said Victor Shin, a sophomore chemistry major. “I’m hoping that the campus will open up very soon and we can head back toward in-person learning.”

By the end of the day, 30% of on campus residents received a vaccine. With the semester wrapping up in a few weeks, the administration is hoping to vaccinate all students who are interested so that the second dose falls before the last day of classes May 4. 

“The fact that we’ve had such a huge turnout is reflective of our students’ interest in getting the vaccine,” Gatteau said. “We’re a big STEM school focused on research, and students know the value of the science and research that went into it, which is similar to their own career pursuits.” 

Residents were selected first due to their risk of transmission by living in close quarters in dorms. The next group to be offered a spot will be commuter students who travel to campus and those who are fully remote but live on Long Island. 

“Even if it was never required, I think we’d get to our herd immunity number just based on interest,” Gatteau said. 

The decision of whether or not vaccination will be required of students returning to campus in the fall is still up for deliberation by the State University of New York administration. This week they announced that in the fall, 80% of classes will be held in person. 

Standing, from left, Angela Cammarata, Service Coordinator for St. Joseph’s Village, Pharmacist Amanda School, Legislator Nick Caracappa, Pharmacist Dan Gambhir, Pharmacist and Owner of Bell Mead Pharmacy Ruby Masson. Seated: St. Joseph’s Village resident Elyse Biederman.
St. Joseph’s Village resident Elyse Biederman gets her vaccine shot.

This week, Legislator Nick Caracappa helped residents of a senior housing community in his district get their first COVID vaccine. St. Joseph’s Village in Selden, which houses approximately 230 residents, is managed by Catholic Charities of Long Island. Legislator Caracappa coordinated with Bell Mead Pharmacy in East Setauket to have pharmacists on-site over a two-day period to administer 50+ Moderna vaccines.

“I was thrilled to be part of what was truly a community effort to get these folks vaccinated,” stated Legislator Nick Caracappa. “A special thank you goes to Ruby Masson, owner of Belle Mead Pharmacy and her friendly staff, Angela Cammarata, Service Coordinator for St. Joseph’s Village who arranged the appointment schedule for the residents, and Lynn Reddy from Catholic Charities for working collaboratively with my office to get this accomplished and help keep our senior population safe.”

Long Island Jewish Medical Center nurse Sandra Lindsay’s historic first Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will now be part of National Museum of American History Collections

When Northwell Health nurse manager Sandra Lindsay received the first injection of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine last December, the nation tuned in to watch a turning point in the pandemic. That milestone moment turned out to be historic. Northwell today announced that the items used as part of the first FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine in the United States have been donated to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, where they will join the museum’s medical collection.

Northwell donated materials documenting the first doses, which took place on December 14, 2020, at Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Medical Center, as well as objects related to vaccine distribution and efforts to encourage the vaccination of frontline health care staff. The donation includes the now empty Pfizer-BioNTech vial that contained the first doses of approved vaccine administered in the U.S., Ms. Lindsay’s original vaccination record card along with her scrubs worn at the event and employee identification badge. Ms. Lindsay, director of critical care services at the hard-hit hospital, was the first person known to receive the vaccine. 

“December 14 was a historic moment for all: the day the very first COVID-19 vaccine was administered in the United States,” said Michael Dowling, president and CEO of Northwell Health. “It was our first real sign of hope after so many dark months in the fight against the global pandemic. Northwell was prepared to put shots in arms as soon as the vaccine arrived, not to make history but to protect our frontline workers battling COVID-19 as quickly as possible. But when Sandra Lindsay rolled up her sleeve, we weren’t just showing our team members the safety and efficacy of this groundbreaking vaccine – we were telling the world that our country was beginning a new fight back to normalcy. It was an extraordinary moment, and I thank the Smithsonian for preserving this important milestone.”

As New York State’s largest health system, no provider handled more COVID-positive patients and LIJ stood at the epicenter of the first surge in March and April. Ms. Lindsay was one of thousands of frontline workers who heroically soldiered on and saved countless lives despite personal fears and an unending caseload.

“Having lived through the devastation and suffering created by the virus, I knew I wanted to be part of the solution to put an end to COVID-19,” said Ms. Lindsay. “I hope that when people visit the museum and see all these items that they stop to honor the lives of people who did not make it and remember the loved ones they left behind. I hope it will inspire some discussion and education for future generations.”

In April 2020, the museum formed a rapid-response collecting task force to address the COVID-19 pandemic and document the scientific and medical events as well as the effects and responses in the areas of business, work, politics and culture. Due to health and safety protocols, the museum is only able to bring in a limited number of artifacts into the building. Additional artifacts related to the pandemic will be brought in and processed when the museum returns to full operation.

The Northwell acquisition includes additional vials from doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines administered at Northwell, as well as the supplies needed to prepare, inject and track the vaccinations, such as diluent, syringes and vaccination-record cards. Northwell also donated shipping materials that document the enormous effort required to support vaccine distribution and preserve vaccine potency, such as a specialized vaccine “shipper” that monitors and maintains temperature.

“The urgent need for effective vaccines in the U.S. was met with unprecedented speed and emergency review and approval,” saidAnthea M. Hartig, Ph.D, the museum’s Elizabeth MacMillan Director. “These now historic artifacts document not only this remarkable scientific progress but represent the hope offered to millions living through the cascading crises brought forth by COVID-19.”

Northwell’s donation joins the museum’s medicine and science collections that represent nearly all aspects of health and medical practice. Highlights include a penicillin mold from Alexander Fleming’s experiments, Jonas Salk’s original polio vaccine, early genetically engineered drugs and an 1890s drugstore. The museum is working on a signature 3,500-square-foot exhibition, “In Sickness and in Health,” that will explore efforts to contain, control and cure illnesses over the centuries, thereby shaping the nation’s history. The exhibition will feature artifacts from 19th-century vaccination tools and diagnostic instruments to cardiac implants, imaging technologies and objects from the global smallpox eradication campaign and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the museum’s resources related to vaccines and the role of antibodies is a website, “The Antibody Initiative,” and a March 2 virtual program with Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Fauci was presented with the museum’s signature honor, the Great Americans medal, and donated his personal 3D model of the SARS-CoV-2 virion to help represent his pandemic work in the national collections. The program featuring a conversation with Smithsonian Regent David M. Rubenstein can be accessed at https://greatamericans.si.edu.

Through incomparable collections, rigorous research and dynamic public outreach, the National Museum of American History seeks to empower people to create a more just and compassionate future by examining, preserving and sharing the complexity of our past. All Smithsonian museums continue to be closed to support the effort to contain the spread of COVID-19.  For more information, visithttp://americanhistory.si.edu.

The museum’s staff also canvassed the nation, asking what it should collect to document this pandemic. The public can continue to make suggestions at [email protected] and share their Stories of 2020 at a site that will serve as a digital time capsule for future generations. The portal, open through April, will accept stories in English or Spanish and photos or short video.

Photos courtesy of Northwell Health


Stock photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

The second time around, of course, I knew the routine: where to drive, what paperwork to fill out, how quickly the shot would be administered into my designated vaccine arm, my left, then how I would have to wait in case of an immediate reaction. After the allotted 15 minutes, there being none, I left and drove myself home, picking up a sandwich for supper at the deli along the way.

Shortly after I finished eating and got up from the table, however, I started to feel a bit lightheaded. By the time I had cleaned everything up, I was decidedly dizzy. I climbed the stairs to the bedroom, got into pajamas and, book in hand, tucked myself safely into bed. After a couple of hours, when my inoculation site began to hurt, I took two Tylenol and ultimately fell asleep.

The next morning, Sunday, the dizziness had stopped and I was wolfishly hungry. Thinking that was a good sign, I hurried out of bed only to realize that my left upper arm seriously ached, and upon inspection, was red, hot and swollen. It remained that way throughout the day and the next, until it finally dawned on me to apply ice to the area. Almost immediately the swelling was reduced. Otherwise, except for a slight and short-lived headache, the kind one might get when coming down with a cold, I had no further difficulties.

Now that I have had both vaccines, what does that mean?

First, it means that I have to wait 14 days before the full preventive effect of the vaccines take effect. Then, and only then, a curtain will lift and I will be able to walk out into the sunshine. At least, that is how I would like to think of my life changing two weeks from now. But not completely, I have learned. Yes, I will be able to socialize in small groups in homes with others who have also been twice inoculated. That means friends around my age. We will not have to wear masks nor remain socially distanced. Hallelujah! 

I will also be able to meet with my unvaccinated family in single family units at a time — son, daughter-in-law and their children — if they have been living together the whole time and are basically healthy. According to CDC guidelines, this can happen in a home and without requiring masks or our standing six feet apart. The very thought of hugging them makes me dizzy again, this time with pleasure.

In public places, however, we should continue with the same precautions of masks, social distancing and frequent hand washing, as well as avoiding poorly ventilated spots. Scientists do not yet understand if we can still carry and inadvertently transmit the virus. Also they don’t know exactly how well or for how long the vaccines protect against the disease. There are, as we know, ongoing multiple mutations by the virus, some of them more contagious and more virulent than the originals, and scientists are not sure how well vaccines will protect against those variants.

Meanwhile, we who are vaccinated need not get tested or quarantine if we are exposed to the virus, unless of course, we come down with symptoms. We are advised not to gather with unvaccinated people from more than one household and should avoid joining medium or larger groups. 

Further, we are still advised not to travel long distances and to stay home if possible until more facts are known. This is disappointing, but travel brings exposure to more people and the possible spread of variants. Every time there is more travel, there is a surge of cases, the experts point out. If we go to a gym or restaurant, the risk is lower, but we should still be aware and take the usual precautions, like wearing a mask on the treadmill or while waiting for a meal. 

So we are returning to normal life but slowly and with great care.

Stony Brook University President Maurie McInnis, Stony Brook Medicine Vice President for Health System Clinical Programs and Strategy Dr. Margaret McGovern, 25,000 COVID-19 Vaccine recipient and Southampton resident Veronica Lang with her husband James, SBU mascot Wolfie, and Lisa Santeramo, assistant secretary for intergovernmental affairs. Photo above from Stony Brook Medicine

By Rita J. Egan and Julianne Mosher

With last week’s announcement that Suffolk County Community College in Selden will be the county’s third mass-vaccination site, in addition to the SCCC campuses in Brentwood and Riverhead, more people are itching to get their shots.

Many, who over the last several months expressed discontent with the vaccination process, were finally able to get their appointments.

Mary McCarthy, a 98-year-old Sound Beach resident, was anticipating her shot. Earlier this week, she got her first injection. 

“It didn’t hurt a bit,” she said. “I feel fine. No aftershock or anything, and I hope after the shots we’ll get back to normal so I can go see my friends again.”

Mary McCarthy, of Sound Beach, received her vaccine at Walgreens in Medford. Photo from Kevin McCarthy

The senior said she is most excited to get back with her group, where in pre-COVID times, they’d play cards every week.

Her granddaughter helped McCarthy set up the appointment at Walgreens in Medford. Her second shot will be 28 days from the first round, closer to home in the Miller Place location.

She has advice for people who might be skeptical.

“Don’t be afraid,” she said. “It didn’t hurt a bit, and you’ll feel better knowing that you won’t get anything else.”

Three Village resident Stefanie Werner went to the vaccination site at Stony Brook University with her 81-year-old father. As a teacher, who also has an underlying heart condition, Werner was also able to get the vaccine.

“Even though booking our appointments was stressful and nerve-racking, the actual experience was anything but,” she said. “The site is extremely well organized, with all aspects, from check-in to our 15-minute post-observation, coordinated and easy to follow.”

Werner commended the individuals working at the SBU location “from the officer at the entrance, to the members of the National Guard guiding the outside check-in — out in the snow no less — to the RNs at the registration desk and the vaccinators who were friendly and comforting, all while plunging a needle swiftly and painlessly into our arms.”

“These people are the frontline to our return to normalcy,” she said. “They are deserving of recognition for their hard work and empathy as we continue our ascent out of this pandemic.”

Due to her health problems, Werner said she has been vigilant during the pandemic.

“I honestly don’t think I am going to change my ways much after the second dose, especially with all the new variants and the fact that my daughter is in school five days,” she said. “There are still too many unknowns, and I absolutely feel more people should be vaccinated before I return to some semblance of my old normal.  It’s my hope that people maintain COVID protocols until our safety and security is more certain.”  

Adam Fisher of Port Jefferson Station also headed to the university with his wife where they “deeply appreciate the perfect organization. Our thanks to the person or persons who organized this program and all the people who staffed the site. The people were helpful, cheerful and welcoming. The shot itself was painless.”

He said the entire process went well and was a smooth process.

“From start to finish we were guided through it,” he said. “The staff was helpful, cheerful, welcoming — they could not have been nicer. The vaccination itself was painless — the most pain-free injection I ever had.”

Fisher said he felt “absolutely fine,” with the exception of a mild headache that two Tylenol tablets fixed.

“I urge everyone to be vaccinated,” he said, adding that after their second shots, the couple are looking most forward to being together with their children and grandchildren again. 

On Feb. 18, the university announced it reached 25,000 people with vaccinations within one month since the first vaccines were shipped for the general public.

“The fight against COVID-19 has been a difficult and long one, but SUNY campuses have remained steady each step of the way as the target has moved in beating back the pandemic,” said State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras in a statement. “I thank Stony Brook University President Maurie McInnis and her leadership team for making this effort a priority, and for ensuring that Long Islanders have the protection they need to end this pandemic.”

The new SCCC site will add about 8,000 more vaccines as of this week. 

Paul Guttenberg, of Commack, is about to turn 52. As an EMT/driver for the Commack Volunteer Ambulance Corps, he was able to get the vaccine and has already received both doses at the Long Island Ducks stadium through the Northwell Health program.

“I had no side effects other than a sore arm and was tired for about one day,” he said, adding it was the same for both times.

Guttenberg, who is a sales rep in field sales, said he would like to return to a normal work schedule. He is also looking forward to traveling again and seeing his family, including his parents who live in Cincinnati, Ohio, “without fear of getting others sick with COVID.” 

“What would make me happy is to see 80% or more of this country get vaccinated and put an end to this pandemic,” he said.

Tara Shobin, 45, of Smithtown, was able to get the vaccine because she’s a teacher. She received her first dose of the Moderna vaccine Feb. 6.

“I was lucky enough to have my cousin let me know that appointments were available at Nassau Community College which was only available to teachers,” Shobin said. 

The Smithtown resident said when she showed up for her Feb. 6 appointment, she waited no more than five minutes.

“As I was waiting, I was holding back tears because I finally could see an end to this horrible virus,” she said.

After getting the shot, Shobin was told to go to the waiting room for 15 minutes so she could be monitored. She said she felt fine until the next day but her reaction was mild.

“I had a very sore arm and a slight headache,” she said.

Shobin said she’s looking forward to life returning to normal and doing things with her family, which includes her husband and two children, such as going on vacation, visiting museums and socializing.

“It crushes me to see my children’s life hindered so much,” she said. “I try to help people get appointments if I can. I can’t wait to see this horrible virus behind us. Let’s crush this virus!”

Photo from Deposit Photos

Looking back on the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, expressed his frustration with the reaction to recommended safety measures.

“Public health issues got entangled in the profound divisiveness in our society,” Fauci said in a public discussion with the College of William & Mary president, Katherine Rowe, last week. “When you’re dealing with a common enemy, which is the virus, it is very counterproductive to be divisive over virtually everything you do.”

Fauci was frustrated that wearing a mask became a political statement, calling that “ridiculous” and suggesting that it “accounted for a less-than-optimal response that this country had.”

“I believe we’re going to get there within this calendar year.”

— Dr. Anthony Fauci

The disagreements were based “not on facts and science, but on political differences,” he said. In the next year, however, Fauci expressed hope that the country would have the virus under control and that it would eventually no longer threaten public health.

“I believe we’re going to get there within this calendar year,” Fauci said on the William & Mary call. “The problem is that a global pandemic requires a global response and if we don’t participate as [have] the other developed nations in the EU and in the U.K. and Canada and Australia, if we don’t participate in a program, in COVAX, that helps provide vaccines for the developing world … our problem will never go away.”

Indeed, last week, President Joe Biden (D) pledged $4 billion to the COVAX program at the G7 meeting.

Fauci pushed an initial estimate back for the time when vaccines for the virus would be available broadly to the United States population.

“One of the disappointments, which made me change [the] estimate, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which we anticipated would be coming in significant quantities in March and April, we learned that they will not have significant quantities until likely May and June,” Fauci said.

Reacting to a question from William & Mary Student Assembly president, Anthony Joseph, Fauci said, “Somebody like yourself, a young person, will likely have to wait until May.”

In response to a question about whether a vaccinated individual could be a carrier for COVID-19, Fauci said it is a “theoretical possibility — how likely that is, we do not know.”

The vaccination might prevent someone from showing clinical signs of the disease, but it might not keep someone from being a carrier.

He recommends people who have received the vaccine continue to wear a mask when they’re in the presence of people who have not been vaccinated, to prevent the possibility of infecting someone else.

New York State vaccinations

Snowstorms throughout the country this winter have disrupted the process of distributing vaccines.

New York State Department of Health said facilities where people scheduled appointments will connect with them before and during storms.

“As has been the case for past postponements, if any vaccine appointments at state-run sites are impacted by winter weather, they will be rescheduled over the following seven days,” a DOH spokesman said in a statement. “New Yorkers with appointments scheduled will receive an email or text message to reschedule their vaccination.”

Each resident who received a first dose at a state-run site will get a reminder email 24 hours before their second dose appointment.

When residents of the Empire State receive their first shot, they are required to schedule a second dose during that appointment.

Anyone who missed their appointment for a second shot should contact the call center to reschedule, if possible.

The state is required to keep a second dose on hand up to 42 days after a first shot, even though people who receive the Pfizer vaccine should get their second dose three weeks after the first shot and those who get the Moderna vaccine should return four weeks later. After 42 days, the state site can give the vaccine to someone else.

New York State requires all providers to keep a daily list of standby eligible people, in the event that an appointment opens up.

“As soon as providers are aware that there are more doses than people to be vaccinated, standby eligible individuals should be called, or other steps must be taken to bring additional eligible recipients to the facility or clinic before the acceptable use period expires,” the Health Department said in a statement.

Recognizing that the vaccination process can go awry during storms, providers can administer the vaccine to other public facing employees if extra doses remain at the end of a clinic and no one from a priority population can arrive before the doses expire.

As an example, the DOH suggested that commercial pharmacists who had already vaccinated eligible residents can offer the vaccine to members of the pharmacy department, store clerks, cashiers, stock workers and delivery staff.

“This exception is only for the purpose of ensuring vaccine is not wasted,” the spokesman said.

In remarks on Feb. 9, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) indicated that the supply of vaccines continues to lag well behind the demand.

“We now have about 10 million New Yorkers waiting on 300,000 doses,” Cuomo said. “The supply will only increase when and if Johnson & Johnson is approved. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are ramping up but the ramp-up is relatively slow, so we won’t see a major supply increase from Pfizer and Moderna, nowhere near what we would need to make rapid progress against the 10 million.”

Stony Brook vaccinations

Stony Brook University, meanwhile, announced that it reached a milestone last week when it distributed its 25,000th vaccine, exactly a month after the site started administering the vaccine. That means the university has vaccinated more than one person per minute for each of the 11 hours it’s been providing shots.

In a statement, President Maurie McInnis said she was “proud of the milestone” and called the effort by the university and Stony Brook Medicine “excellent work.”

SBU Hospital is also assisting in developing point-of-distribution sites in underserved communities on Long Island.

County Steve Bellone announced Suffolk County's third mass vaccination site. Photo by Andrew Zucker

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) joined other elected officials on Wednesday, Feb. 17, at Suffolk County Community College’s Selden campus to announce its new vaccine site.

The campus will be home to Suffolk County’s third mass vaccination site, and will administer some of the nearly 8,000 vaccines that were delivered to the state earlier this week. 

“The college is uniquely situated for this effort,” Bellone said. “These campuses are strategically located throughout the county on the west end, east end, and now in the middle of the county with the Selden campus.”

He added the Selden campus will focus on vaccinating those with comorbidities, municipal employees and Northwell Health employees. 

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright. Photo from Englebright's office

In 2020, state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) maintained his seat in a race against Michael Ross, a local lawyer and former Suffolk County assistant district attorney. With nearly 30 years behind him as an assemblyman, Englebright is hitting the ground running in 2021.


While the assemblyman has a list of priorities for 2021, the COVID-19 vaccine rollout is at the forefront of his mind. He said in a phone interview that the state’s vaccination rollout protocols need to be addressed in regard to issues such as identifying more vaccination sites, making registering easier and allowing couples to sign up together.

He added more locations should be utilized such as chain and privately owned pharmacies, local school gyms and even National Guard facilities.

“It really is held up right now by a lack of imagination and proper use of technology that’s available,” Englebright said, adding that even having people answering the state hotline would be helpful.

He noted not having enough of the COVID-19 vaccines also exacerbates the problem.

“I think there’s always little bureaucratic things that discourage people, and the object of this exercise is to vaccinate as many people as possible and achieve herd immunity and return to normal at some level,” he said. “Especially, before these new variants come in from Brazil, South Africa and London.”


Englebright has been keeping his eyes on Route 347 and the Long Island Rail Road.

While roadwork on Route 347 in the Smithtown area was completed a few years ago, Englebright would like to see the road improvements continue through Port Jefferson Station. The assemblyman is making sure the completion of the roadwork is a priority.

“This is important for the operation and quality of life for the Port Jefferson Station community,” Englebright said. “If I can move it up and accelerate the improvement, I’m going to try to do that.”

Englebright is also a proponent of full electrification of the LIRR Port Jefferson line, and in 2019 was part of a press conference speaking out against the railroad purchasing more diesel engines.

He said electrification will be a “game changer,” raising the values of homes, attracting more people to use the railroad and creating less pollution.

“We’re working with late-19th century, early-20th century models for rail, and the time has long passed — we need to upgrade them,” he said.

PSEG Long Island

Englebright said a closer look is being taken at PSEGLI. Many have been disappointed with the utility company, he said. Recently, many of its top executives were pulled off of Long Island issues and sent to Puerto Rico to try to acquire big contracts for rebuilding the Caribbean island’s hurricane-ravaged electrical infrastructure.

Englebright said the Long Island Power Authority board is moving toward full municipalization of the utility company, something he has been pushing for since 1983 when he was a Suffolk County legislator.

“I’m still of the opinion that moving to full municipal ownership would give more accountability and more stability in terms of our ratepayers obligations,” he said.


Englebright along with state Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) is co-sponsoring legislation regarding recycling and creation of waste related to packaging which will extend producers’ responsibility. The goal is to boost recycling, curb waste and save tax dollars. Englebright said the responsibility of recycling packaging and paper products will shift from local governments to corporations.

Locally, it could mean that the Town of Brookhaven could extend the life of its landfill, which is slated to close in 2024 and was negatively affected when China stopped taking America’s plastic waste in 2018. The request to reduce landfill waste is one that comes from towns all over the state, according to the assemblyman.

“One-third of the waste going into the landfill is for packaging,” Englebright said. “So, if we can help extend the life, the useful life of our landfill, it will save our taxpayers millions.”

The assemblyman added that “we’ll just be more responsible if we put the responsibility for packaging onto the manufacturers.”

“If we create an incentive for the manufacturers to reduce the amount of waste and standardize the type of plastics that they use to use recyclable plastics, such as polyethylene instead of polyvinyl chloride, the work of the town becomes much, much less stressful,” he said.

Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act

Englebright said implementing New York State’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which was passed in 2019, is a priority. The act sets to legally binding emissions reductions’ standards with the goal of eliminating dependence on fossil fuels by 2050. The act sets a goal to reduce emissions by 85% below 1990 levels by 2050. An interim target is at a 40 percent reduction by 2030. The remaining percentage of emissions will be offset by actions such as planting trees, which removes carbon dioxide out of the air, to reach net zero emissions.

An original sponsor of the legislation, Englebright is encouraged by President Joe Biden’s (D) commitment to do the same and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) also being a proponent. Englebright is further encouraged by Biden moving toward incentivizing electric automobiles which was followed by General Motors announcing it’s going to phase out internal combustion engines by 2035 and move into the electric vehicle arena.

“All of that is within the framework of what we went through at the state legislative level,” Englebright said. “We had a debate basically for four years before Todd Kaminsky became the chair in the Senate and was able to move the bill.”

Restore Mother Nature Bond Act

The state’s $3 billion Restore Mother Nature Bond Act was announced in the state budget in 2020 but was pulled from the November ballots due to the pandemic’s impact on New York’s finances. Englebright said it’s important to get back to implementing the legislation which will fund critical environmental restoration projects in the state — including restoring fish and wildlife habitats, preserving open spaces and enhancing recreational opportunities and prepare New York for the impact of climate change and more.

The bond act would help advance the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.

Photo from Pixabay

Comsewogue Public Library in Port Jefferson Station presents an important online program, COVID-19 and Vaccines: Just the Facts, on Monday, Feb. 1 at 7 p.m. 

Get a science-based overview of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 including a discussion on the safety of vaccines, how long immunity may last, and more with Ph.D. pharmacologist Andrew Clair. Open to all. Visit www.cplib.org/a-online-programming/ for information on how to participate in this program. Questions? Call 631-928-1212 and ask for Adult Services.