As the first 327,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine begin arriving in California, most San Joaquin Valley hospitals expect their initial shipments within the next few days.
Some hospitals, however, have already begun receiving them. In a video posted to Twitter, employees of Valley Children’s Hospital applauded next to a freezer set to negative 78 degrees Celsius, the temperature colder than Antarctica’s annual average that’s needed to store the vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTech. The Madera County hospital was one of the first to receive the 17,000 doses in this first batch slated for the Valley.
Madera County has received 975 doses, of which 535 will remain with Valley Children’s. Fresno County has also received its shipment of 7,800 doses.
Bakersfield’s three Dignity Health hospitals are expecting their first doses on Thursday or Friday. In a media call, Dignity Health Central California Chief Medical Officer Dr. Emmal Kothary explained the hospital’s vaccine priority list begins with doctors, nurses and janitors. “Not only custodial staff, but transportation personnel, anyone that comes into contact with these patients at a higher level than someone else would be our first priority,” he said.
In a “soft clinic,” Kothary said the hospitals will likely begin administering the vaccine to a small number of staff later this week before rolling out the vaccine more widely next week. Administering the shots will not only involve registration and consent, he said, but will also require everyone who gets the vaccine to take the following day off of work. “We do not want to give staff vaccines that will come back to work the next day, knowing that they will have potential side effects,” he said.
Following Governor Gavin Newsom’s announcement on Tuesday of a likely additional million vaccine doses from Pfizer and Moderna (pending emergency authorization) in the next few weeks, Kothary was optimistic about the reach of the vaccine within Bakersfield’s Dignity hospitals. “We predict actually that, by end of calendar year, we should be able to vaccinate all health care workers. We should have enough to vaccinate all of them,” he said, noting that for now the vaccine is voluntary.
A second dose will be required for full vaccination, after 21 days for the Pfizer vaccine and after 28 days for Moderna.
According to Kothary, Bakersfield Memorial as well as Mercy Hospitals Downtown and Southwest are expected to receive around 2,000 of the 5,850 doses slated for all of Kern County. Adventist Health locations in Bakersfield, Delano and Tehachapi are set to receive another 1,590.
In Tulare County, Kaweah Delta Medical Center in Visalia and Sierra View Medical Center in Porterville are each slated for 925 doses out of a county total of roughly 3,000.
This story will be updated with information on other Valley counties and facilities.