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COVID-19 Vaccine is Expected in Fresno County by Tuesday
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By Jim Jakobs, Digital Producer
Published 3 years ago on
December 15, 2020

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The first shipment of Pfizer’s COVID-19 is expected by Tuesday, according to the Fresno County Department of Public Health.

Once the shipment arrives, it’ll be taken to what officials have set up as their guarded ‘vaccine room’. The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office has been on site for over a week finalizing security protocols.

There’s only certain individuals that have access to the room that will then have access to these freezers and refrigerators as well,” said Community Health Division Manager Joe Prado who is engineering the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

Prado says he’s been receiving requests from hospitals throughout the county, which will receive all of the initial 7,800 doses.

It will be up to the hospitals to determine which recipients get vaccinated first.

“There’s only certain individuals that have access to the room that will then have access to these freezers and refrigerators as well.”– Joe Prado Fresno County community health manager 

Distribution Process

Hospitals have put in requests for the amounts of vaccine they need and the health department will work to accommodate their needs, officials said.

“Some of the hospitals will take a portion of their vaccine because they do not have the ultra cold storage. We will store it for them,” says Prado. “So as they go through and vaccinate their team, we will then hold their vaccine allocation here and distribute it to them when they’re ready for their next delivery.”

Prado says he and his team have been reviewing a video on the protocols for properly handling the the vaccine.

It’s (video) something that we’re sharing with our local hospitals as well,” said Prado. “You want to make sure you take it from the dry ice box and then put it right into your freezers immediately.”

Fresno State Loans Freezer to CMC

Fresno State has loaned a low-temperature freezer to Community Medical Centers for the vaccine. “We thank Fresno State for its generosity and all our community partners that have helped us meet the unique challenges of this pandemic,” said Matt Joslin, vice president for Community Medical Centers.

Dr. Joy Goto, chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, explained how the freezer was available.

“When Fresno State moved quickly to virtual instruction during the shutdown in March, research in our department was delayed or drastically reduced to ensure the safety of our graduate and undergraduate students who conduct the research in our laboratories,” says Goto in a news release. “The new freezer arrived at the end of March when research was halted in our department.”

Workers load up a freezer loaned by Fresno State to Community Medical Centers for storage of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. (Courtesy/Community Medical Centers)

Other Hospitals

Kaiser Permanente Northern California medical centers anticipate receiving their first doses of the vaccine on Wednesday and Thursday. “We have preparations in place to begin vaccinating our frontline health care workers once the vaccine is available,” Michelle Gaskill-Hames, Senior Vice President, Health Plan and Hospital Operations, Kaiser Permanente Northern California said in a statement. “We expect the initial allocations to be very limited, and we are working to ensure an equitable distribution based on those health care workers in areas with highest risk for exposure.”

Kings County will also receive the vaccine this week, though Adventist Health Hanford officials don’t know which day it will arrive. “Staff in high-risk patient care areas will be first to receive the vaccine,” communication manager Amanda Jaurigui tells GV Wire℠.

In the South Valley, Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine will be stored and distributed from Kern Medical to the larger Central Valley region out of Bakersfield. According to a press release from Assembly member Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield), the effort was made possible through $5 million in state funding.

In the North Valley, UC Davis Health in Sacramento is expecting to receive its first shipment Tuesday. “We will begin by vaccinating front line emergency department workers. These workers will include staff who clean rooms, food service workers, reception staff who greet patients, and of course those who provide direct patient care such as doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and more,” says communications director Pam Wu.

Walgreens & CVS

Separately, the federal government will deliver the first vaccine doses directly to long-term care homes through several commercial pharmacies, including Walgreens and CVS, under a program managed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The pharmacies will also provide staff to administer the immunizations and report them to the state public health department.

The CVS/Walgreens program is slated to begin the week of December 28 in Fresno County on site at various nursing facilities.

Prado says, “It’s a full service program that it’s not just taking the vaccine and delivering it to them. It’s actually full administration (at the skilled nursing facilities) as well.”

Moderna Vaccine

Gov. Gavin Newsom says California expects to receive 672,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine in the next few weeks, following expected approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“We went ahead and ordered our (Fresno County) allocation, which is 14,800 doses of Moderna,” said Prado. He anticipates the company’s version of the vaccine to arrive in Fresno County by the end of the month.

Like the Pfizer vaccine, healthcare workers and long term care residents will get priority.

Future Vaccines

AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson are in late stage trials of their COVID-19 vaccines.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine could require a single dose regimen according to a statement from the company. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines both require two doses.

Other vaccines in the works potentially have similar types of storage requirements to the current versions.

“Our vaccine room that we designed can handle all those vaccines that are up and coming in the pipeline,” says Prado. “We have three freezers and one refrigerator in that room. It has the most the most security that we have in public health.”

Wide Distribution Discussion

The county is also looking at a longer range plan for mass vaccination sites.

“That is something logistically we’re discussing what that may look like,” Prado said. “And so there will be a registration process to ensure that the mass vaccinations are handled in an efficient manner.”

Prado says health officials are also penciling out how they might deploy two different types of vaccine at one vaccination site. Scenarios could include one lane administering AstraZeneca or Moderna vaccines, and another administering versions manufactured by Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson.

He says the county will draw upon its 10 years of experience in doing mass distributions of the flu vaccine.

“We’re evaluating (whether we) could we do some of that registration process prior to people actually showing up to that mass vaccination clinic,” says Prado. He says the goal would be to minimize the amount of time recipients would have to be on site, in order to increase throughput.

Pregnant or Prior COVID Diagnosis Q&A

GV Wire℠ asked Prado if someone who is pregnant should get the vaccine. Prado says, “The recommendations are that pregnant women within the health care worker population may get the vaccine.”

GV Wire℠, what about someone who has already had COVID-19? “If you’ve had COVID before, the recommendation is you still get a vaccine as it’s potentially added protection for you as well,” answered Prado.

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