By Kiet Do

SAN JOSE (KPIX) — The first shipment of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Santa Clara County on Tuesday, marking the next chapter in the battle against the worldwide pandemic, with healthcare professionals mobilizing across the South Bay to distribute the hundreds of thousands of doses that are expected in the coming weeks and months.

Tuesday’s allotment was delivered at 7:30 a.m., in cardboard boxes carrying FedEx’s “priority boarding” designation. The 5,850 doses were packed in dry ice and were immediately stored in ultra-cold freezers at around -70C.

The county’s Public Health Department has begun scheduling appointments with staffers at skilled nursing facilities, and will administer the first doses this week.

By December 17 or 18, another 11,700 doses will arrive in the county, which have already been allocated to acute care hospitals. The doses were assigned to each facility based on need and staffing levels.

On Tuesday, December 22, some 39,300 doses of the Moderna vaccine are scheduled to arrive. This allotment will, again, be redistributed to the so-called ‘1A” population, consisting of healthcare professionals. The 1A group includes staffers at skilled nursing facilities.

Beginning the week of December 28, residents of skilled nursing facilities can begin receiving the vaccine at retail pharmacies under the Centers for Disease Control’s “Pharmacy Partnership for Long-term Care” program. The program is designed to ease the burden on local health care systems, with doses supplied by the State of California.

Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, health officer at Santa Clara County Public Health Department, expects wide distribution to the general public by early summer.

“Everybody will have an opportunity to get the vaccine. It’s just going to take a while,” said Dr. Fenstersheib. “So even in the midst of the doom and gloom, we need to realize that we need to be patient and do what’s right to keep us all here and safe and healthy, so that we can all take our turn to receive the vaccine.”

Kay Abbott, a resident at Lincoln Glen Manor in San Jose, said she has not hugged her children since December 2019. Abbott has been tracking the vaccine’s progress closely, and was on her way to check with her local CVS to try and schedule an appointment to receive the vaccine as soon as possible.

“Well I think it’s very, very smart to take the most vulnerable people first of all,” said Abbott. “Yeah, we have to be positive. We really do.”