South Bay

1st Shipments of Moderna Vaccine Arrive in San Diego

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What to Know

  • As part of Phase 1A of the vaccine-rollout plan, frontline health care workers and staff will be the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, followed by long-term care patients and staff
  • San Diego County received a 28,000-dose supply of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine on the week of Dec. 14 and will receive 43,700 doses of the Moderna vaccine starting Dec. 21
  • San Diego military and veterans hospitals are receiving their own, undisclosed number, of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine

San Diego County on Monday received its first delivery of the Moderna vaccine, the second COVID-19 vaccine to be approved by the Federal Drug Administration, and on Tuesday, local hospitals were already putting them to use.

The county received 20,000 doses in its first batch but was expected to get an additional 23,700 doses in Moderna's first round of shipments. That's in addition to the 28,000 doses the county was expected to receive from Pfizer last week.

Some local health care systems had the vaccine shipped directly to them. On Monday, Rady Children's Hospital was one of the first in the county to announce they had received a shipment of the latest vaccine -- 3,500 in total.

"It is really to me the light at the end of the tunnel," Dr. Robert Smith tells NBC 7 military reporter Bridget Naso.

The hospital began administering Moderna doses to health care workers on Tuesday, exactly a week after it began administering the Pfizer vaccine. In all, Rady has vaccinated 2,000 essential hospital staff who are most at risk of encountering COVID-19 in their day-to-day duties.

"This is the first proactive tool we've had to be able to combat and contain COVID-19," said Dr. Nicholas Holmes, Sr. Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Rady Children's Hospital. "All the things we've done so far to keep us safe -- with the PPE, wearing masks, the social distancing -- are great, and handwashing. But in terms of being able to actively contain and combat this, this is the first tool we have in our toolbelt. So it's a gamechanger."

UC San Diego Health received 5,500 doses on Tuesday and expected to be able to vaccinate about 500 first-priority workers a day in the coming weeks. In total, about 9,049 front-facing inpatients and ambulatory staff are considered in the first-priority group for the vaccine. The health care systemexpects to have that group immunized in the next three weeks.

The Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System (VA) received its own supply of the Moderna vaccine, separate from San Diego County's dosages, and was also slated to start administering the shot to health care personnel, veterans and long-term care residents starting Tuesday. It was one of 113 VA health care centers across the country to receive the vaccine.

“Receiving the vaccine is like having hope delivered. As vaccine supplies increase, our ultimate goal is to offer COVID-19 vaccination to all veterans and employees who want to be vaccinated," said VA Director Dr. Robert M. Smith.

The Moderna vaccine began to ship across the country over the weekend, following the FDA approval. Since the vaccine does not need to be stored at extremely low temperatures, like Pfizer's vaccine does, it will be distributed to more rural areas, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said.

Newsom said on Monday the state would receive 672,600 doses by the end of the week to be distributed to a total of 31 locations. It has reached 21 locations, so far.

Meanwhile, California was awaiting another 233,025 Pfizer doses this week.

Rady Children's Hospital on Monday received its second shipment of the Pfizer vaccine as well. The hospital said that with both the Pfizer and Moderna shipments, they were able to start scheduling vaccinations for their next wave of staff.

"This latest shipment is another big step forward, allowing us to complete our highest risk staff and to begin offering the vaccine to those in our high risk categories," the hospital said in a statement.

Both vaccines are close to 95% effective and require two doses over a period of several weeks. The Pfizer vaccine is given 21 days apart and the Moderna vaccine is given 28 days apart.

Photos: Coronavirus Vaccine in San Diego

Timeline: Vaccine Rollout in San Diego County

Almost immediately after the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was approved in the United States, doses were shipped to large cities across the country. San Diego County received its first batch on Monday, Dec. 14, and was expected to have 28,000 doses for distribution by the time the week was over. The Department of Defense also shipped separate batches of the vaccine to Naval Medical Center San Diego (which also gave doses to Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton) in order to protect critical military health care workers.

On Tuesday, Dec. 15, local hospitals and the military installations began administering vaccines to their critical care health care workers, starting with Naval Medical Center San Diego and Rady Children's Hospital.

The first nonmilitary San Diego County resident to receive the vaccine was emergency room nurse Britanee Randle, 27, who's worked at Rady Children's Hospital for two years.

"It was great!" Randle said. "The person administering it was awesome. I'm actually afraid of needles, and I didn't even feel it."

NBC 7's Bridget Naso has more on how the first COVID-19 vaccines were used in San Diego.

Among San Diego's military community, Lt. Catherine Senoyuit was the first to receive a coronavirus vaccine on Tuesday, Dec. 15 at Naval Medical Center San Diego.

On Wednesday, Dec. 16 four more medical facilities in San Diego County began administering the coronavirus vaccine: UC San Diego Health; Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton (given doses from Naval Medical Center San Diego); Kaiser Permanente Zion Medical Center in Grantville; and Palomar Health.

Palomar Health said it plans, within six weeks, to provide all staff who agree to take the vaccine's two doses. Their first recipient was respiratory therapist Jon Hammer, also vaccinated on Wednesday, Dec. 16.

Jon Hammer, respiratory therapist, was Palomar Health's first employee to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 16, 2020.

On Thursday, Dec. 17, Scripps Health began administering the vaccine.

Scripps said it would administer the new vaccine “based strictly on federal, state and county guidelines, focusing first on health care workers who are at greatest risk and then moving to subsequent tiers based on the same criteria.”

Keith Darce of Scripps Health said on Thursday, Dec. 17 that the facility had received 72% of the doses it had requested for Tier 1 vaccination.

Meanwhile, Kaiser Permanente said it planned to roll out coronavirus vaccinations Thursday, Dec. 17, at its Kearny Mesa location.

The Dec. 17’s batch given at Kaiser Permanente was part of the medical facility’s initial 525-dose allocation it had received from the county’s 28,000 doses this week.

Long-term care patients in San Diego County were expected to start receiving the COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, Dec. 21, advancing the region's efforts to immunize the most vulnerable patients first from the novel coronavirus.

Surrounded by more than a dozen Sharp HealthCare caregivers, 72-year-old Carlos Alegre on Monday became what is believed to be the first patient in San Diego County to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

San Diego's Vaccine Plan: Which Communities Will Get It First?

Administering the vaccine to the public will be a three-phase process in which health care workers and long-term care workers and residents will be given priority, followed by essential workers, then adults who are over the age of 65 or who have medical conditions.

The 28,000 doses delivered around San Diego last week will be used to vaccinate 72% of the nearly 40,000 people “working in acute care, psychiatric and correctional facility hospitals and are at highest risk of contracting COVID-19.”

“We first have to vaccinate our acute health care personnel who are at highest risk,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county's public health officer. “After everyone in that group has gotten their first dose, we will move into our next priority group.”

Residents and employees of skilled nursing facilities are also part of the county’s first-priority group.

The 28,000 recipients in the initial group will get their second dose when more Pfizer vaccine arrives in the region, the county added.

After this first group is vaccinated, additional doses will arrive in San Diego County, and those doses will be used to immunize more acute health care workers.

In Phase 2 of the vaccine roll out, critical workers not included in Phase 1 will be eligible for the vaccine, as well as children and young adults under the age of 30. Phase 3 includes everyone else in the U.S.

The coronavirus vaccine is expected to be available to the general public in the spring of 2021, the San Diego County Communications Office said.

When that happens, the vaccine should be available via health care providers, local pharmacies, community clinics or county vaccination sites.

San Diego County is adding all coronavirus vaccine updates to its website here.

Side-effects of the Pfizer vaccine may include swelling, fatigue, irritation, pain or a headache. Some patients who have taken the vaccine reported chills and low-grade fever, according to former FDA chief Dr. Margaret Hamburg.

Vaccine doses bought with U.S. taxpayer dollars will be free to Americans, according to the CDC. However, vaccination providers could charge an administration fee if they chose.

Both the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines were developed using mRNA—short for messenger RNA— technology. Here is how they work.
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