Hospital staff were among the first people in the Tri-Valley to receive the new Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine last week, taking part in the first phase of immunizations being sent out to health care workers and first responders throughout the country.
Due to the limited vaccine supply available so far, vaccinations for the novel coronavirus -- which has been surging throughout the country and state over the past month -- are being limited to front-line health care workers and first responders.
In the Tri-Valley, some of the first recipients included staff at Stanford Health Care-ValleyCare in Pleasanton last Friday and staff at San Ramon Regional Medical Center two days earlier.
"We are really excited," said Colleen Chawla, director of the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency.
"This is the beginning of our nearly 14,000 doses of vaccine that we're administering to high risk health care workers as well as the highest risk first responders in our 9-1-1 emergency response system. That's our ambulance service providers and our fire service providers," Chawla added. "(We're) really excited to be one of the few counties in California that's extending this first dose of vaccine to our 9-1-1 first responders."
The first shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which is estimated at being 95% effective against COVID-19, arrived in Alameda County last week, with 12,675 doses being allocated for hospitals and first responders throughout the county.
Stanford-ValleyCare received 975 doses last Friday, according to hospital spokesperson Denise Bouillerce. It will first be distributed to the highest risk front-line health care workers at Stanford-ValleyCare, and Stanford Health expects to vaccinate its entire workforce through January and February 2021, expanding availability to the community in March or April.
Stanford-ValleyCare's first COVID-19 vaccination was administered by local nurse Laura Chan to emergency room physician Dr. Howard Yoshioka.
"The availability of vaccines for our staff is a significant turning point in our response to the pandemic," said Rick Shumway, president and CEO of Stanford-ValleyCare. "It has been a really challenging year for all of us. We've all gone through lots of challenges, both personally and professionally. To me, this day signals a significant step forward in our ability to take better care of our staff, patients, families and community."
"I'm so excited for the opportunity our staff, our teams, and our physicians will have -- to have that piece of mind and allow them to do their jobs in a safer and more effective way," he added.
Neighboring Contra Costa County received 9,715 doses last week, which have likewise been distributed to hospitals and other locations throughout the region.
"We are vaccinating eligible members of our staff in accordance with FDA, CDC, state, and local guidelines," Krista Deans, spokeswoman for San Ramon Regional Medical Center, told the Weekly. "We are hopeful that we will be able to immunize all healthcare workers working in areas that are high risk for COVID exposures in the first few weeks of immunizations. Immunization of all healthcare workers will happen in the first phase of immunization."
Although San Ramon Regional staff did not disclose how many vaccines it received for its own staff, Deans did note that emergency medicine physician Dr. Renzo Cardena was the first person to receive the vaccine at the hospital, which saw its first batches administered on Dec. 16.
Vaccines are being distributed as the Bay Area -- and the U.S. at-large -- is facing its worst surge of coronavirus cases since the pandemic began nearly a year ago.
On Dec. 16 the state announced that the availability of intensive care unit (ICU) beds in the Bay Area have fallen below 15%, due in no small part to sharply increasing severe coronavirus cases throughout the region.
According to local health officials, the week ending on Dec. 12 was the single worst week of the pandemic so far in Alameda County, with more than 5,000 new COVID-19 cases reported and over 1,000 cases reported on each of the last two days. Additionally, the number of residents hospitalized with COVID-19 and in ICUs are five times higher than one month ago -- and increasing daily.
"By every measure, the state of the pandemic in Alameda County is the worst it has ever been," said Dr. Nicholas Moss, Alameda County health officer. "Over the last 10 months, we have learned a lot about how we can protect ourselves and each other from this deadly virus. Now is the time to use every tool we have to ensure the work we've done and the months away from our loved ones will have been worth it."
To fight the drastically increasing number of cases, California issued a stay-at-home order that is set to last through at least Jan. 7 -- the order is expected to remain in effect until the region's projected ICU capacity meets or exceeds 15%.
As of Monday, Alameda County has seen a total of 42,655 confirmed cases and 587 coronavirus-related deaths.
Livermore has been hit the hardest by COVID-19, reporting 2,146 cases as of Monday. That is followed by Pleasanton, which has seen 1,125 reported cases, San Ramon with 1,066, Danville with 898 and Dublin with 835, according to data from the respective counties.