With California expected to receive 327,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer in mid-December, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday revealed the groups that will be prioritized once the vaccine is approved for use.
The initial supply is a small one, and in a state of nearly 40 million, it will only account for a tiny percentage of the population receiving immunizations. But, “there is light at the end of this tunnel,” Newsom said at a Thursday news conference.
While supplies are scarce, the state will be prioritizing health care workers and those in congregate settings, and distributing the vaccine across six regions.
Health officials in each region will begin ordering the vaccine doses from Pfizer on Friday, Newsom said. They will decide on who gets the vaccine first based on the three tiers outlined by a state advisory committee:
- Acute care, psychiatric and correctional facility hospitals
- Skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, and similar settings for those who are older or medically vulnerable
- Paramedics, EMTs and others providing emergency medical services
- Dialysis centers
- Intermediate care facilities
- Home healthcare & supportive services
- Community health workers
- Public health field staff
- Primary Care clinics, including
- Rural Health Centers, correctional facility clinics and urgent care clinics
- Specialty clinics
- Laboratory workers
- Dental and oral health clinics
- Pharmacy staff not working in settings at higher tiers
“We will be very aggressive in making sure that those with means, those with influence, are not crowding out those that are most deserving of the vaccines,” Newsom said.
Of the six regions, the one getting the most vaccines from the initial Pfizer batch — 126,750 doses— includes Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Diego and San Luis Obispo counties, according to the California Department of Public Health.
The governor has said the first batch of the vaccines will be “challenging,” because the doses would need to be stored at ultra-low temperatures, and because they require a second dose.
The state bought 16 ultra-low temperature freezers to transport the vaccines, as well as dozens more smaller freezers, which will be sent out where they’re needed throughout the state — especially in rural areas.
In Los Angeles, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center will be among the first hospitals in the U.S. ready to receive vaccines. The hospital was chosen as a distribution site because it has ultra-cold temperature freezers.
Newsom said the first batch is expected to arrive sometime between Dec. 12 and Dec. 15.
“Vaccines are about to arrive here in the state of California in the next few weeks, and you’ll be hearing good news on top of other good news, more and more vaccines will be arriving January, February, March,” Newsom said. “More and more individuals will be availing themselves the opportunity to take the vaccine.”
California would be using the 327,000 doses if the Food and Drug Administration approves of Pfizer’s vaccine. In late November, the company announced that its vaccine appears 95% effective at preventing mild to severe COVID-19 disease and formally asked U.S. regulators to allow its emergency use.