South Bay

Pfizer Coronavirus Vaccine in San Diego: Sharp HealthCare Begins Distributing Its Doses

Sharp HealthCare is the latest medical group in San Diego County to administer the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine this week as part of the 28,000 doses received by the county since Dec. 14

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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.
  • San Diego County received a 28,000-dose supply of the vaccine on the week of Dec. 14, while a local military health center received an undisclosed amount of doses.
  • Sharp HealthCare began administering its doses of the vaccine on Dec. 18; other facilities that have already done so this week include: Naval Medical Center San Diego; Rady Children's Hospital; UC San Diego Health; Palomar Health; Scripps Health

Sharp HealthCare became the latest medical group in San Diego County Friday to administer the coronavirus vaccine to frontline health care workers starting in a community hard hit by the pandemic: South Bay.

First in line for the vaccination was Dr. Andres Smith, Medical Director of Emergency Services at Sharp Chula Vista, a South Bay doctor who treats COVID-19 patients in the region and in Tijuana, Mexico.

“Behind my mask there’s a big, humongous smile!” Smith told NBC 7.

“I think it's crucial that the vaccine gets to South Bay Because of the highest numbers that we are seeing in comparison to the northern part of San Diego,” the doctor added. “So, it's very exciting to see this happening.”

Photos: Coronavirus Vaccine in San Diego

Smith got the shot coming off an all-nighter working with COVID-19 patients as the surge continues to devastate the community.

San Diego’s South Bay is a community made up largely of Latinos, where multi-generational families are more likely to live under one household. Half of all COVID-related deaths in San Diego County have been Latinos.

“I’m a little weepy myself – this is so emotional,” Smith said as he became the first frontline health caregiver within Sharp Healthcare to receive the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccination. “I feel like we’re going to be able to end the pandemic and to be a part of that is amazing.”

Smith regularly travels to Tijuana and Imperial County to help with COVID-19 patients.

Smith stressed the need for the South Bay community to overcome any hesitation with the vaccine. Some of the hurdles for the community may be trust and free access to it.

NBC 7 asked Sharp HealthCare how many doses of the vaccine it had received this week. The group said thousands – enough to vaccinate many more frontline healthcare workers in the coming weeks.


Which San Diego Medical Facilities Have Already Started Rolling Out the Vaccine?

San Diego County public health officials said the county expected to receive 28,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine this week. This figure does not include the undisclosed number of doses received at Naval Medical Center San Diego (which also gave doses to Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton).

The first health care locations to receive the coronavirus vaccine in San Diego County were Naval Medical Center San Diego and Rady Children's Hospital. They began vaccinations on Tuesday.

The first non-military San Diego County resident to receive the vaccine was emergency room nurse Britanee Randle, 27, who has been employed at Rady Children's Hospital for two years.

Brittanee Randle made history in San Diego as the first non-military resident to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

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

Randle shared her story with us here.

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

"I believe that we are on the frontline and we also have an obligation to set an example for the rest of the nation," said the U.S. Navy Registered Nurse, who works in Naval Medical Center San Diego's emergency department. "We are in here every day working with these patients and I feel as though me being able to give myself immunity, will ultimately give the patients that security."

Active and reserve service members will be able to receive the vaccine voluntarily in the coming days. They are not required to get the shots.

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

On Wednesday, 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; Palomar Health.

Kaiser Permanente's Merope Duffin was among the first employees to be immunized Wednesday.

“This vaccine means a lot. I know it may seem scary, but it’s for the benefit of everyone.” said Duffin, “It’s been a very long and challenging year in the ER, and this vaccine means seeing an end to the pandemic."

Palomar Health said it plans to provide all staff who agree to take the vaccine the two doses required within six weeks. Their first recipient was Respiratory Therapist Jon Hammer, also vaccinated on Wednesday.

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

On Thursday, 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.”

Scripps Health said Tier 1 workers are those with prolonged exposure to confirmed COVID-19 patients and span staff providers and physicians in ICUs, Emergency Rooms, and COVID-19 units. Scripps Health said the vaccine for Tier 1 workers will not be mandatory.

After the Tier 1 group is vaccinated, the Scripps Health system said its vaccination process will move on to the next tier of those who need the vaccine the most, as the vaccine becomes available again.

Keith Darce, of Scripps Health, said Thursday the facility had been able to receive 72% of the number of doses it had requested for Tier 1 vaccination.

Meanwhile, Kaiser Permanente said it also planned to rollout coronavirus vaccinations Thursday at its Kearny Mesa location.

Thursday’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.

Kaiser Permanente planned to administer approximately 175 vaccines Thursday, also to the first-round group that includes emergency medical service personnel working in long-term acute care facilities, intensive care units, emergency departments, labor & delivery, and COVID units.

The group included physicians, nurses, phlebotomists, respiratory therapists, environmental services staff, and ancillary staff required in these care environments, Kaiser Permanente told NBC 7.


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

Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine comes in two doses that were determined to be 94% effective in preventing infection.

Frontline medical workers will be the first community to be given Pfizer's new vaccine as part of a plan created by the federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Prevention.

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.

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 San Diego County Communications Office said Wednesday that about 82,600 San Diegans who work at acute health care settings would be the first to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The 28,000 doses being delivered around San Diego this 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 Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County 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.

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.

The county said this will include 14,000 employees at high risk of getting COVID-19, followed by 14,000 employees at medium risk and another 14,000 employees who are lower risk.

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

San Diego County public health officials are still trying to determine how many people fall into the Phase 1A-Tier 1 priority group and the number of San Diegans who fall into Tier 2 and Tier 3.

The coronavirus vaccine is expected to be available to the general public in spring 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/BioNtech coronavirus vaccine may include swelling, fatigue, irritation, pain or 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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