SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A critical care doctor and an intensive care nurse received San Francisco’s first COVID-19 vaccination shots Tuesday as the initial allotment from Pfizer was being distributed and administered to front line health care workers at Bay Area hospitals.
A batch of 2,000 doses of Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine arrived at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital on Monday. On Tuesday, Dr. Antonio Gomez and intensive care nurse Phung Nguyen were the first to receive the shots.
“This is a historic day for our city and, we hope, the start of a turning point in our response to COVID-19,” said Breed. “This has been a really tough year, and this is good news for our city and for the fight against COVID. It gives us some much-needed hope during an otherwise challenging and uncertain time.”
Gomez is the medical director of Critical Care Services at the San Francisco General Hospital, where he has treated the most critically ill COVID-19 patients. Nguyen has been on the ICU staff that has treated the most acute COVID-19 cases in San Francisco during the pandemic.
SF General workers who spend the most time with COVID patients are prioritized, but each person to get a shot Tuesday was surprised to be among the first.
“I know there’s a lot of excitement that the vaccine is available. People are asking questions and are eager to know when they will have the opportunity to get their vaccine. There’s a lot of energy and excitement,” said Dr. Gomez after receiving the shot.
SF General Hospital officials said the plan is to start vaccinating 100 people a day. There are 6,000 health care workers at SF General alone.
“To be clear, this is hope. But we don’t even have enough doses to cover our health care professionals,” said San Francisco Mayor London Breed. “So we need to make sure health care workers are taken care of first, and that’s a process.”
“We are embarking on a vaccine distribution effort unlike anything this country or San Francisco has ever seen,” said San Francisco Public Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax. “While this is a significant moment that we should celebrate, we have a long road ahead of us.”
In San Francisco, the 12,000 plus initial doses translate into less than one-half of a percent of the city’s population getting vaccinated.
Starting Wednesday, 100 hospital workers will get vaccinated each day.
Santa Clara County’s 37,000 doses means less than two percent of its population can get inoculated.
In accordance with the state’s vaccine prioritization plan, residents in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities could receive the vaccine next as more supplies become available.
The vaccine won’t likely be available for most residents until later in 2021.
The vaccine requires two shots, spaced 21 days apart, in order to be effective, according to city officials.
The city expects to receive a second round of vaccine doses sometime next week and every week thereafter. More information about the vaccine can be found at the San Francisco city government website.
There was also other encouraging news on the Pfizer vaccine front. Gov. Gavin Newsom took to twitter late Monday to announce the second shipment.
“Some good news, we just got word from Pfizer that we are going to receive an additional 393,000 doses of their vaccine next week,” Newsom said. “So, first vaccines out to 4 locations in the state today (Monday) — San Diego, Los Angeles, Eureka and San Francisco. 24 additional locations will have distribution of vaccine tomorrow (Tuesday) and five more on Wednesday.”
Just got word from Pfizer — CA is now expecting 393,000 more doses of the #COVID19 to arrive next week.
Excellent news as we begin to vaccinate healthcare workers and long term care residents across the state. pic.twitter.com/m0iwFKfoui
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) December 15, 2020
“Obviously, it is incredibly important to begin vaccinating people are quickly as possible,” Colfax told reporters on a Monday Zoom call.
While the vaccine carries with it future hopes in the battle against the virus, Colfax said residents can’t lose sight of the current dire situation unfolding within San Francisco.
“It will be a long (vaccine) rollout and too late for this surge,” he said.
The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine has arrived in Santa Cruz County. Vaccine administration to front-line health care workers could begin as early as tomorrow. Thank you all for the sacrifices you’ve made to protect this community. Help is on the way. #Science pic.twitter.com/mBE1fI4BF5
— Santa Cruz County (@sccounty) December 15, 2020
Currently, San Francisco is grouped with hospitals in other Bay Area counties into one of five COVID ICU regions in the state. As of Monday, the availability of ICU beds had dropped from around 25 percent to 17.8 percent in just one week.
While those numbers are alarming, they are not as bad as in other regions. Colfax said the greater Sacramento region had 14.8 percent, the Southern California region which includes San Diego and Los Angeles had just 2.7 percent and there were no available ICU beds in the San Joaquin Valley region.
Colfax said there were currently at least 2,807 active cases of COVID-19 among the residents of San Francisco. There were 148 COVID patients hospitalized in San Francisco, 37 of those are in intensive care.
And the feared Thanksgiving surge was underway. New cases have increased by 50 percent after Thanksgiving and over last week an average of 200 people have tested positive each day.
“With so much virus out there, you are not going to get away with any bad behavior,” he said.
Colfax warned that with hospitalizations lagging about two weeks behind infections. San Francisco will run out of ICU beds in the next 3-4 weeks.