Amid the surge within a surge of coronavirus cases in the Bay Area, the new COVID-19 vaccines have arrived and are being distributed to frontline healthcare workers and some first responders—but plans for patients and the general public are still in flux.
Alameda County received an initial shipment of 13,650 doses of the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine last week and began healthcare worker and firefighter vaccinations at hospitals in the Alameda Health System, according to the Alameda County Public Health Department. This includes doses to healthcare workers at Highland Hospital during Christmas week. However, Alameda County health officials are still working out details to get the limited vaccines to workers at satellite clinics like Clinica De La Raza and the Eastmont Health Center.
Vaccines have also been allocated to other health providers in Alameda County such as Kaiser, Sutter Health, and Children’s Hospital. After vaccinating its health workers and first responders, the County will prioritize essential workers like teachers, police, food workers, and other frontline jobs. Older seniors will be in the next grouping and the County is working with Walmart to provide doses at rest homes and longterm care facilities.
At the moment, vaccines are only allocated to healthcare workers and 911 first responders who are at highest risk for COVID-19 exposure.
The final prioritization for which recipients will go when will be based on CA state guidelines generated with the help of a state-wide Community Advisory Board. Alameda County will implement those guidelines with input of its own Community Advisory Group, which held its first meeting on December 21 and agreed the phase one priorities should be:
1a — Health providers who are likely to be in contact with COVID-19 patients
1b — First responders and essential workers like teachers, food store and restaurant workers, agricultural workers, etc.
1c — Seniors over 75 and those in rest homes and those with health conditions that increase risk of death.
The second phase of vaccinations will start off with seniors over 65 and those with underlying health conditions that moderately increase their risk of serious illness. Slides and video from the County’s Covid Community Advisory Group can be found at here. Correctional facility clinics and COVID-19 testers are also in Phase 2.
While the state’s framework prioritizes vaccination for different groups of people over four phases, Alameda County has some local control over how those priorities are put into practice.
The definition of “essential worker” is still expanding and was discussed at the Community Adviory group. Some details from the State’s presentation on Tier 1b essential workers are found here.
Advisory Group member Dr. Kathleen Clanon explained Alameda County’s approach to equitably distributing Covid vaccines to the larger community: “We plan to reach many community-based essential workers with ‘PODS’ which stands for Points of Distribution; it’s large scale community vaccination ‘clinics’ at outdoor locations where we can see a thousand or more people in a day. We did that for H1N1.”
Alameda Health System media contact Kate Preston told Oakland Voices “AHS received its first shipment of nearly 3,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine yesterday and another 4,875 doses are expected next week. In addition, 1,400 doses of the Moderna vaccine has been allocated and should arrive within the next week or so. AHS plans to vaccinate 200 patient-facing healthcare workers per day over the next few weeks.”
Preston added, “AHS is opening additional COVID-19 clinics at Alameda, Fairmont, John George Psychiatric, and San Leandro hospitals next week. The clinics will operate as long as it takes to vaccinate all AHS employees who want it. “
Kaiser’s Media Department told Oakland Voices in a statement: “Kaiser Permanente has started vaccinating employees and physicians with the highest exposure to COVID-19 due to high-risk exposure procedures and close contact with known COVID-positive or COVID-suspected patients. As supplies become more plentiful, we will vaccinate more employees, prioritized based on their risk of exposure as recommended by public health agencies, and our infectious disease leaders’ review of the clinical evidence.” They will follow future state and county guidelines to distributing Covid vaccines to patients and the public as these develop and vaccine supplies increase.