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Cuomo: COVID-19 vaccine 'the weapon that's going to win the war'

Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a Thursday afternoon briefing to provide a COVID-19 update and to explain how the vaccine distribution will work once it becomes available.

ALBANY, N.Y. — As COVID-19 cases continue to surge across the state, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday brought New Yorkers up to date on day 278 of its battle against the coronavirus.

Calling it the "weapon that's going to win the war," Cuomo said New York's vaccine distribution planning is underway but will take a lot of work and effort. He stressed that the state is going to be "very aggressive" about distribution once it gets underway in about two weeks.

He urged New Yorkers to start thinking seriously about getting the two-dose shot.

"People should start focusing on it because it's here, and it's real," the governor said.

The Pew Research Center released the results of its latest vaccine acceptance survey Thursday, which found that 40% of Americans are still questioning whether or not to get inoculated.

Stressing that vaccine distribution and acceptance is key, Governor Cuomo showed off a prop box of COVID-19 virus manufactured by Pfizer, which contained glass vials made by Corning Glass.

One box holds five storage trays. Each tray can hold up to 195 vials and each vial can provide five doses of the vaccine or approximately 5,000 per box.

The packaged box when shipped will contain dry ice that once delivered must be replaced in order to maintain the required -94 degrees Fahrenheit above which the vaccine can degrade.

If the vials are not moved to deep-freeze storage, the boxes can only be opened twice a day for 60 to 90 seconds.

Cuomo said the state is now in the process of training people on how to distribute and administer the vaccine. If it's approved by the FDA the state expects to receive enough doses for 170,000 New Yorkers on December 15.

Priority will be given to nursing home residents and medical professionals. The vaccine won't be available to most Americans in good health or unlikely to suffer severe symptoms until Spring or Summer of 2021.

Cuomo added the state expects additional vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, the other company to request emergency authorization, by the end of the month; again if they are approved by the FDA.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul urged New Yorkers to stay the course and continue to wear a mask and social distance.

"The word has to get out that NYS is going to make sure it's safe, make sure it's available but don't let that change your behavior now," Hochul said. "We are still months and months away from the general public getting a vaccine so you still have to protect [yourself] because it is deadly and we are in an extremely vulnerable time."

The latest data shows the positivity rate statewide without micro-clusters stands at 4.49%, and with micro-clusters, the rate is 4.84%. More than 200,000 tests were performed Wednesday.

Just over 4,000 people are in hospitals across the state, an increase of 139; 783 of those are in ICU, an increase of 41. Statewide intubations stand at 377. Sixty-one New Yorkers died from the virus.

In the Western New York region, an additional 14 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 over the last three days, adding to a total of 91 since last week. Four hundred forty-six people are currently hospitalized in the region, or 0.03% of the population.

Out of 35,000 hospital beds currently occupied across the state, 4,063 have been diagnosed with COVID-19.