2,900 of the county’s first COVID-19 vaccine doses to go to UCSD, roll-out to begin in days


After nearly a year spent adjusting to closures and isolation, San Diego will soon have the only tool that could possibly restore life to some semblance of normalcy: a COVID-19 vaccine.
“We anticipate that by early next week, if not even the weekend, we will receive vaccines,” Dr Wilma Wooten, county public health official, said at a press briefing earlier this year. week.

But don’t put that mask away just yet, or expect you to be able to get the vaccine anytime soon. County officials expect the region to receive a first shipment of 28,275 doses of Pfizer vaccine. San Diego County is home to 3.3 million people, and a vaccine likely won’t be widely available until spring at the earliest.

These first doses will go to hospital employees who are routinely exposed to COVID-19 patients – including doctors, nurses, guard staff and security. The limited offer will only cover around 70% of the residents of San Diegans who are in that group, according to Wooten.

UC San Diego expects to receive 2,900 of those doses by the end of the weekend and hopes to start immunizing frontline health workers early next week, said Dr. David Brenner, vice -chancellor of the university for health sciences.

“People most at risk will get it first – people in the (emergency department), people in intensive care units, then people doing the procedures, then people doing consultations and people in the intensive care unit. the labs, ”Brenner said. .

The doses will be placed in freezers at one of UCSD’s hospitals, possibly the Jacobs Medical Center in La Jolla. Dr Susan Little, who helped plan how UCSD will allocate these doses, says vaccination will be voluntary for the foreseeable future.

“Frankly, we don’t have the time or the energy to force people to get vaccinated who don’t want it when so many people are lining up who want it,” she said.

The Union-Tribune has contacted other hospital systems in the county and has learned that Palomar Health, Scripps Health, Rady Children’s Hospital, Paradise Valley Hospital, Alvarado Hospital Medical Center, and Sharp Health all expect to receive benefits from the first batch. county vaccines, although none knew exactly how many doses they would receive. UT did not receive immediate responses from Kaiser Permanente or Tri-City Medical Center.

Pfizer will ship doses of the vaccine directly to three locations in San Diego: UCSD, Rady, and the county itself, which operates the San Diego County Mental Hospital. Each location is equipped with the ultra-cold freezers necessary to store Pfizer’s vaccine, which must be stored at minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit – about the temperature of an Antarctic winter.

The county submitted its COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan to the state on Tuesday and plans to share the document with the public soon, according to Nick Macchione, director of the health and human services agency.

Based on state advice, the county plans to give a single dose of the vaccine to about 28,000 residents of San Diegans, spreading the supply as much as possible. Pfizer’s vaccine requires two injections. This second shot will have to come from a future expedition, which the county expects to receive three to four weeks later. In the Pfizer clinical trial, participants received their injections exactly 21 days apart.

“I don’t think the exact timing really matters,” said Dr. Davey Smith, infectious disease specialist at UCSD.

What matters, Smith says, is that people come back for the second booster, which will give them longer and stronger immunity to the coronavirus. Pfizer’s two-dose vaccine is about 95% effective in keeping you from getting sick with COVID-19.

Researchers fear that side effects a little stronger than those of your typical flu shot may prevent some participants from coming back after their first shot. Some San Diegans participating in Pfizer’s clinical trial told UT that they experienced a temporary fever, chills and muscle aches after receiving their injections – side effects typical of any vaccine.

On Thursday, a team of researchers from the Food and Drug Administration’s Vaccine Advisory Committee looked at everything scientists know (and don’t know) about Pfizer’s vaccine. After a nine-hour marathon discussion, 17 of 22 committee members voted to recommend that the FDA authorize the vaccine.

It was a monumental vote, but it wasn’t difficult, says Dr Mark Sawyer, an infectious disease expert at Rady Children’s Hospital and one of the committee members who voted in favor of the vaccine.

“We have no other mechanism to mitigate the pandemic except the vaccine,” Sawyer said. “And there were no serious, worrying or obvious side effects that worry anyone. So in that sense it was pretty straightforward.

Sawyer sits on another advisory committee created by California Governor Gavin Newsom to review the safety and effectiveness of any potential coronavirus vaccine. This additional review is meant to reassure people rather than slow the vaccine rollout, Sawyer said, noting that the committee was meeting on Saturday to issue a recommendation on Pfizer’s vaccine, which the FDA cleared on Friday evening.

He is quick to point out that the impending deployment of a vaccine does not mark the immediate end of the pandemic and that it will not stop the current spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in San Diego and across the country. country. Only basic public health measures can do that, says Sawyer.

“Until a lot of people get this vaccine, if we don’t do better with masking and distancing, we’ll continue to see the kinds of numbers we’re seeing now.”


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