Front line healthcare providers at Sierra View, Kaweah Delta among first vaccinated in Tulare County
TULARE COUNTY – California received its first order of the long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer last week, with front line healthcare providers at Sierra View Medical Center and Kaweah Delta being among the first to roll up their sleeves and take their shot.
As of press time, 375 front-line healthcare workers received the first round of vaccinations at Sierra View, given out to those who are identified as high-risk, with the remaining 65 doses to be administered Wednesday. Adventist Health has received their first doses of the Pfizer vaccine, and will administer them to physicians and associates who are in direct contact with COVID-19 patients at all four acute care hospitals in Hanford, Reedley, Selma and Tulare Dec. 21-23. Kaweah Delta Medical Center is expected to have vaccinated 2,000 individuals by the end of the year.
The first staff member to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at Sierra View and one of the first in Tulare County, ICU Registered Nurse Kathy Hughes, has been serving at the bedside of patients in life-threatening situations including COVID-19 patients.
“I’m so thankful for the vaccination, which will make it so much easier to care for COVID-19 patients,” Hughes said. “I think the vaccine is going to be very safe…and is needed to move forward.”
Carrie Monteiro of Tulare County Health and Human Services Agency said 2,925 doses were received in the first allotment from Pfizer, and are expecting another order of 1,950 doses in the next week or two. She said the county also expects an allotment of 5,500 vaccines from Moderna, the vaccine recently authorized for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration Dec. 18.
“The County’s role is for this first allotment until the system is fully operational,” said Monteiro. “We filled in that gap of distributing that first allotment. Future allotments will go to direct distribution to the hospitals and facilities that are registered in that system, especially with Moderna because they don’t have the ultra low freezer requirements. We filled in the gap for Pfizer because we have the ultra-low freezer to hold it until the hospitals are set up to receive it.”
Monteiro said individual hospitals will be on the hook for future orders, and drugstores and pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens are in the process of partnering with state and federal governments to supply COVID vaccines to stores, but the process could take months to coordinate direct deliveries.
An important distinction, Monteiro pointed out, is that both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are two-dose vaccines. The two Pfizer doses are taken 21 days apart, and the Moderna booster is taken 28 days after the first.
“How the vaccination works is your body a couple weeks after that second dose will have the vaccine immune response established,” Monteiro said. “So it’s still going to be another month or five weeks before the individuals that are receiving this [initial] vaccine will have that vaccination immunity within their bodies.”
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines, which protects the body by teaching cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response. The response produces antibodies that protect against COVID-19. The vaccines do not contain a live virus and do not carry a risk of causing disease in the vaccinated person. Both are authorized for emergency use by the FDA, but are not actually FDA approved by conventional means.
While many may see the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines as a light at the end of the tunnel, Monteiro said it’s important to remember that we’re still in the tunnel. It is still unclear whether a vaccinated individual can still transmit COVID-19 to others.
“Although its very positive and very exciting, hopeful news that the vaccines are here,” Monteiro said, “we are still going to need to have those non-pharmaceutical protocols and good hygiene practices of masking, physical distancing, social distancing and handwashing for some time now until we get greater immunization throughout the general population.”