Contra Costa County expects to receive less than 10,000 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in its first shipment, which could happen next week, Dr. Chris Farnitano, health officer for the County, said Tuesday. Healthcare workers deemed at highest risk to contract the virus will be among the first in line to receive the vaccine, he said.
The FDA is expected to authorize Pfizer’s vaccine this week. The relatively small number of vaccine doses coming to Contra Costa County will be followed up with a larger batch about three weeks after the first delivery, said Dr. Farnitano, who added that a task force has been working to determine how to allocate doses equitably in the County.
He said it won’t be until late winter or early spring before the larger part of the population will have access to a vaccine. The hope is that vaccines from multiple companies will be approved for use by then.
In the first phase of allocations of the federally-funded vaccine, highest risk healthcare workers and elderly residents living in longterm care facilities will be prioritized to receive them, Dr. Farnitano said. In the second phase, residents with high medical risk and essential workers will be prioritized. The third phase will provide for the rest of the public, which will be able to receive them the same way other vaccines are currently received, such as from their doctor’s office or retail pharmacies.
The rollout of vaccines is welcome news amid an ongoing COVID-19 surge in cases and hospitalizations. In the past month, the number of new daily COVID-19 cases in Contra Costa County has more than doubled, and the number of patients sick enough to be hospitalized has tripled, Dr. Farnitano said. In the wake of the Thanksgiving holiday, when families gather, December is expected to be “much worse,” the doctor said.
On Dec. 1, about 500 people tested positive for COVID in the County. Of them, according to Dr. Farnitano’s estimates, 60 will end up in the hospital, 15 will need to go to intensive care, 10 will need life support and five will die.
Even without COVID-19, ICU beds can generally fill up during the winter, which worries local public health officials who believe an influx of COVID-19 patients could overwhelm the local healthcare system.
It’s a big reason why Contra Costa County officials joined a majority of Bay Area counties in imposing the state’s stay-home order before their region dipped the ICU 15 capacity that would require them to do so.
“This is really an emergency and half-measures are no longer enough,” Dr. Farnitano said.