With hospitals stretching beyond capacity and the number of people dying from Covid-19 continuing to rise, Santa Clara County officials described a “ray of hope” Dec. 15 when the first shipment of a vaccine arrived.
The county received its first 5,850 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. The delivery is the first of the initial 17,550 doses allocated to the county by the state, 230 of which will go to San Benito County per the state’s direction.
The remaining doses in the allocation will ship from the manufacturer directly to hospitals around the county and are expected to arrive later in the week.
These early doses will be for people in the highest risk categories, as set by the state and federal government. This includes front line healthcare workers at acute care hospitals, as well as residents and staff at skilled nursing facilities.
Despite the vaccines, health officials say it will be many months before there will be a noticeable effect on the rising tide of infections, and county Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said there are “very dark days ahead.”
Speaking to the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors on Dec. 15, Cody paused after she announced 24 new reported deaths from the virus, fighting back tears as she said the county has had 553 deaths and more than 50,000 cases of the virus since the beginning of the year.
“Our pandemic here locally is out of control, and our healthcare system is beyond stretched,” Cody said. “It’s become pretty clear that we do need to take more serious action. We are truly, truly in the worst place we have ever been in this pandemic and by a very large margin.”
As of Dec. 15, 528 people are hospitalized in the county with the virus. There are 51 intensive care unit beds available, or about 15 percent, which include surge beds, according to county data.
From Dec. 8-15, Gilroy reported 582 cases, while Morgan Hill had 235 over the past week.
Distribution of the vaccine will follow the requirements from the federal and state governments, which set the sequence for groups to receive the vaccine. The county expects to soon receive additional information from the state about future vaccine allocation, distributions, requirements and timelines.
County Testing Officer Marty Fenstersheib said the Pfizer vaccine requires two doses, three weeks apart.
Common side effects include injection site redness, fever, headache and tiredness, he said, adding that they do not last for more than a day or two.
The county expects to get 39,300 doses of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine on Dec. 22. The Food and Drug Administration is expected to approve the vaccine on Dec. 18.
“Although the arrival of a small number of vaccines across the state and the county brings much hope, we remain in the most dangerous phase of the pandemic, with Covid-19 spreading rapidly throughout the county, the state and across the country,” county officials stated in a press release. “It is critical that all county residents continue to wear masks, not gather with others, continue to socially distance from anyone outside their household, and stay home as much as possible.”