Vaccines that may potentially prevent coronavirus (COVID-19) are emerging, though there is not yet an authorized or approved vaccine to prevent the disease. The federal government, through Operation Warp Speed, has been working since the pandemic started to make one or more COVID-19 vaccines available as soon as possible. Sonoma County will follow prioritization guidelines established by federal authorities including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the California Department of Public Health. Prioritization decisions are not made at the local level.
Plans for vaccine distribution are well underway and are being tailored at local levels to include specific community needs. Details including when a vaccine is released and how much will be available are being considered in the distribution plans.
We know that many people have questions about the vaccine. Vaccines are rigorously reviewed by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and by the California Department of Public Health. We also know that there are many people who want to get the vaccine because it can mean that we keep our loved ones safe, our schools open, get our local businesses back on their feet, and move our communities forward. As more people are vaccinated, we can protect health care and essential workers, people who are at highest risk, and our broader community.
It’s also important to remember that stopping the pandemic will require using all of the tools that we have. The vaccine is just one tool. It is not a silver bullet. With relatively few people getting the vaccine during these months, vaccines will initially only have a marginal impact on limiting the spread of COVID-19. Other tools will continue to be critical to contain the spread of the virus and limit the strain on hospitals and health care responders. These tools include:
• Wearing facial coverings
• Practicing safe social distancing from those not in our households
• Staying home when sick and following guidelines on quarantining and isolation when exposed or infected
• And abiding by state and local health orders
The County’s role and responsibility in the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine is logistics: planning and preparing for the distribution of one or more vaccines. Hospitals, health care systems, and community clinics will administer vaccines in compliance with federal, state and county requirements. Federal authorities also have created a partnership with CVS/Walgreens to disseminate the vaccines through mobile clinics inside nursing homes and care facilities all over the country.
Here are some key facts for December 2020:
• 327,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been allocated in the first tranche of vaccine to the state of California.
• Sonoma County is expected to receive its first allocation of the Pfizer vaccine – 4,875 doses for first-round shots–between Wednesday, December 16 and Friday, December 18, 2020.
• Each box contains 975 doses. The county is receiving five boxes. They will be disseminated in the following way:
• One box for St. Joseph Health for Memorial Hospital in Santa Rosa and Petaluma Valley Hospital
• One box for Kaiser Permanente
• One box for Sutter Health, Healdsburg Hospital and Sonoma Valley Hospital
• Two boxes for Sonoma County Health for Aurora Mental Health, Crisis Stabilization Unit, First Responders and others in Behavioral Health that qualify under Level 1A, Tier 1 prioritization.
After this first shipment of Pfizer vaccine: Sutter, Kaiser and Memorial/Petaluma will receive their doses of vaccine directly to their facilities and not through Public Health. They are the only facilities in Sonoma County besides Public Health with the capability to store vaccine at -70°C. The FDA is expected to approve another vaccine candidate, developed by Moderna and the National Institutes of Health, that has proved about as protective as Pfizer’s vaccine on December 17, 2020. A third candidate, by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, is also making its way through the pipeline and is expected to seek FDA approval for emergency authorization in early January.