California's first coronavirus vaccination went into the arm of a frontline nurse in Los Angeles on Monday. That scene will be repeated across the Bay Area on Tuesday as hospitals begin to give out their shots.
Dr. Antonio Gomez, Director of Critical Care at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, became the first person in the city to get vaccinated at about 9:30 a.m.
“It’s not about me receiving it or not receiving it, it’s really about what it means to our community: that we have it available and that more vaccines are coming and that we can see a light at the end of the tunnel, that maybe we can control this pandemic," said Dr. Gomez.
His colleague Dr. Starr Knight, who works in the ER, was also one of the first to get the vaccine and said it was an easy process and less painful than a tetanus shot.
But more importantly, she said it makes her feel more protected. “It feels like I have an extra piece of armor on. I will of course still continue to wear PPE while I see patients in the emergency department, but knowing that I’m vaccinated will help me feel more confident as I go into rooms with patients whose COVID status are unknown and patients who I know have COVID.”
The hospital received about 2,000 doses of the vaccine in the first delivery from Pfizer Monday, but more doses have already arrived there and at UC San Francisco and Laguna Honda Hospital. The city now estimates it has about 12,500 doses.
UCSF San Francisco will start giving out shots on Wednesday. Contra Costa Regional Medical Center in Martinez is said to be administering its first doses Tuesday afternoon.
Kaiser Permanente said it expected to get its first shipment Wednesday or Thursday and Stanford and San Mateo County are installing deep freezers this week to accept their allotments.
"It’ll help mostly with ICU capacity," explained UCSF epidemiologist Dr. George Rutherford. "It’s going to help because it’s going to keep people on the job and secondly, as we get the next load that comes in is going to go to the nursing homes, so that’ll keep people out of the ICUs."
But that does not mean that life will get back to normal anytime soon.
"So that’s all helpful but it doesn’t address the underlying problem, which is that there’s widespread transmission of this virus which will result in ultimately in deaths and hospitalizations," said Dr. Rutherford. "To make a difference in transmission and to drop numbers it’s going to take months because we’re going to have to get a lot of people vaccinated, and by a lot of people I mean 60% to 70% of adults and kids. So it’s going to take a while, it’s going to take well into the summer to get that done."
Which is why officials keep telling us to stay the course with masks and social distancing until we can reach a high level of vaccination.
Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state is expecting to receive another 393,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine next week, and Moderna could start shipping out its vaccine soon as the FDA signals it will likely be approved.