SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) — With front line health care workers across the state beginning to receive COVID-19 vaccinations, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday he hopes to distribute 2.1 million doses throughout California by the end December.
But that optimistic projection still needs the Food and Drug Administration to approve a vaccine developed by Moderna and the National Institutes of Health for widespread use.
A panel of outside experts is expected to vote to recommend the vaccine on Thursday, with the FDA’s green light coming soon thereafter.
Currently, the state is distributing its first 327,000 dose allotment from Pfizer/BioNTech. Newsom took to twitter late Monday to announce a second shipment was also on the way.
“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
Newson said once it is approved the state would be receiving 672,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine by the end of the month.
“It’s starting to take shape,” he said of the vaccine deployment. “It’s a bit of a flywheel, starts modestly, slowly, and we’ll start seeing these things build up.”
The state will be employing a tiered delivery system when it comes to who can get the vaccination shots. The initial phase will focus on health care workers and those in care facilities.
The next tier will be formulated by a panel of experts this week. Among the groups under consideration will be teachers, grocery store and farm workers.
The state will also be spending $30 million on a publicity campaign to convince those who may be reluctant to be inoculated that the vaccine is safe.
“There is a light at the of the tunnel,” Newsom said. “This has been a very optimistic 48 hours.”
But Newsom, like health care leaders across the state, also warned that the vaccine will not directly impact the current surge in cases which is filling up hospital rooms, morgues and ICUs at an alarming rate.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel, but we’re still in the tunnel, going through the most challenging and difficult surge since the beginning of this pandemic,” he said.
Currently, California has a 10.7 positivity rate among the nearly 300,000 COVID tests being administered daily. There are 14,283 individuals hospitalized with the virus. There are more than 3,000 people in ICUs statewide.
The Southern California region, which includes Los Angeles and San Diego, has just 1.7% availability of ICU beds. San Joaquin Valley has 1.6%. Statewide, that number stood at just 5.7%.
In Los Angeles, local residents were being asked to avoid hospital emergency rooms as the surge of coronavirus patients overwhelm the region’s hospital system. Patients with non-emergency needs were told to visit urgent care centers and similar clinics.
“These are historically high numbers,” Newsom said. “We haven’t seen a positivity rate this high since the first few weeks of this pandemic, where few people were being tested and no asymptomatic members of the community were particularly being tested.”
Over the last 24 hours, 142 people have died of COVID complications in California. Over the last 14 days, the state has averaged 163 deaths a day.
Newsom said the state has purchased an additional 5,000 body bags and distributed them to Los Angeles, San Diego and Inyo County.
“I want to remind folks this is not the flu,” Newsom said. “It’s not something to be trifle with. This is a deadly disease. A deadly pandemic and we are in the middle of it right now. We’re near the end, but we are in the middle of the most acute peak.”