The long-awaited Pfizer-manufactured COVID-19 vaccine arrived at Fresno County’s Public Health Department headquarters Tuesday morning.
Fresno County Community Health Division Manager Joe Prado said the county received all 7,800 doses that it expected, and it has distributed 40 percent of its supply to local hospitals.
Per the state’s vaccine distribution plan, health care workers at hospitals are first in line to receive the vaccine doses.
This initial vaccine distribution signals, as Gov. Gavin Newsom put it, “a light at the end of the tunnel” for a region that has been dealing with a major surge in COVID-19 cases.
Fresno County currently has 491 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, as well as 37 individuals who doctors suspect have the coronavirus. With 73 patients being cared for in the ICU, health officials consider the ICU capacity to be at its limit.
“It’s bittersweet,” said Fresno County Interim Health Officer Dr. Rais Vohra. “I think that there’s a lot of reasons to be hopeful and thankful, but there’s also just a tremendous amount of tragedy that we’re still hearing about. And we’re just experiencing the same mixed number of emotions that everyone else is experiencing.”
With the vaccine distribution taking place this week, Prado said hospitals have ordered an amount of doses from the county to receive.
Everyone receiving the Pfizer vaccine will have to receive two doses 21 days apart.
Prado expects the county to receive those second doses within the next 7 to 10 days.
“We have an allocation table for each of the hospitals based on the amount of high-risk workers in each of their facilities,” Prado said. “They submitted that information to us. We have an initial allocation table based on that number and are appropriately dispensing out the 7,800, and so what we’re doing is we’re allocating an initial amount out to all the hospitals. And we want to evaluate their throughput. So we want to see as we provide the vaccine to the hospitals, are they able to meet that throughput of being able to use that vaccine, using that to vaccinate their employees.”
While the vaccine will is expected to turn the tide of the pandemic, it won’t have an immediate impact on the surge Fresno County is experiencing.
Central California Emergency Medical Services Director Dan Lynch revealed that Tulare County opened up the Porterville alternate care site on Monday, which will care for 10 COVID-19 patients initially.
Fresno County also opened a 50-bed alternate care site in a separate building at Community Regional Medical Center in downtown Fresno to care for more COVID-19 patients. Lynch said the CRMC site will be fully operational by Friday.
“One of the benefits to having that site open versus opening up the convention center is that it has immediate access to hospital services, not just your dietary or that type of thing, but also physical therapy, dialysis, those things that can keep us at a higher level of care versus a stepped-down area which is in your alternate care site like at the convention center,” Lynch said.
“So we feel like sending our team over there temporarily to get that 50 bed site set up is probably the most beneficial to our community.”