Here’s what you need to know about California’s COVID-19 vaccine plan

California is in the throes of another COVID-19 surge — cases are skyrocketing and hospital beds are filling up quickly. On Tuesday, hospitals had 3,300 more COVID patients than at the beginning of this month, state health officials said.

But a glimmer of hope has emerged in the last leg of 2020: The first batch of vaccines could arrive in early December.

On Friday, the pharmaceutical company Pfizer announced that it had requested approval for emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Pfizer’s vaccine has shown an efficacy of 95% against COVID-19 “with no serious safety concerns observed to date,” said Albert Bourla, the company’s CEO

Moderna’s vaccine has similar results. AstraZeneca announced Monday that its vaccine was, on average, 70% effective.

Distribution details are still developing, and it remains unclear how many doses California will get before the year’s end.

Dr. Frances Collins, director at the National Institutes of Health, has said that if all goes to plan, he expects 40 million doses to become available nationwide in December. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which are first in line, require two doses, meaning 20 million people could be vaccinated that month. California gets just a slice of that.

Manufacturers and the federal government will likely distribute doses based on state conditions and population size, said Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s Health and Human Services Secretary.  “So California should get a significant and even the highest amount of vaccination based on those distribution plans,” he said Tuesday.

So when can most people expect to get one? How much will it cost? And how much longer will Californians be urged to wear a mask? 

Here’s what we know so far about the state’s vaccine rollout.

If you’re not a health worker, don’t expect a vaccine soon 

Initial vaccine supply will be limited. To help decide who gets a vaccine first, the state is adopting a three-phase plan from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The state’s plan will guide counties, which will be in charge of on-the-ground coordination. 

So far, we know that health workers and first responders who are likely to treat or be exposed to COVID-19 patients will go first. On Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state would first target 2.4 million health care workers. Those workers are also being divided into subgroups, in case of a shortage in the first rounds. 

Health workers will be followed by those living in congregate settings, such as nursing homes, along with other essential workers and people who are at higher risk of falling severely ill, including people 65 and over. 

The definition of an essential worker in the distribution guidance has not yet been determined, Ghaly said. Teachers, for example, will be a priority so that children can return to school, he said. But where exactly teachers and others will fall in the state’s priority ranking will be decided in coming weeks. 

Everyone else will likely have to wait a few more months. “Mass vaccination is unlikely to occur anytime soon,” Newsom said. Public health officials have estimated broader vaccine availability will come in the spring. 

State health officials have appointed more than 65 advocacy, labor and businesses organizations to a new community advisory committee to help ensure that the vaccine is distributed equitably. 

“The point of having all these groups at the table is to avoid blind spots,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access, one of the committee member organizations. “If we’re not mindful of our most vulnerable populations, we’re undermining our efforts to (control) this pandemic.”

Cost shouldn’t be an issue

Out-of-pocket costs for a COVID-19 vaccine are likely to be low, if anything at all. According to the CDC, doses purchased with taxpayer dollars will be free. Providers, however, can charge for administering the vaccine, which insurance would cover. 

“For those who are uninsured and those in the Medicaid program, they should rest assured…the state is going to step in and make sure that the cost of vaccination in no way gets in the way of someone’s decision to be vaccinated,” Ghaly said on Tuesday.

California has ‘second set of eyes’ on vaccines’ safety

Last month, Newsom announced that the state would form its own panel of experts to review efficacy and safety data of any vaccine candidate. 

California’s experts have already reviewed the first two phases of clinical trials for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and have no concerns so far, Newsom said on Monday. His panel will review Phase 3 data within 24 hours of it becoming available, he added, noting that the state’s review process would not slow vaccine distribution. 

This process is in addition to the FDA’s review. The idea behind the work group, made up of public health and immunization experts from across the state, is to instill trust among the public, Newsom has said. 

Still, challenges lie ahead

If people are looking to buy stocks, dry ice would be a good investment, said Dr. Rais Vohra, Fresno County’s interim health officer. That’s because counties and health care providers are scrambling to get their hands on both ultra-cold freezers and dry ice to help store Pfizer’s vaccine, which needs to be kept at minus 70 degree Celsius — that’s extremely cold.

“Not a lot of those freezers exist,” Vohra said. “The flu vaccine doesn’t need to be ultra cold.”

Moderna’s vaccine can be stored in a standard freezer.

Primary care doctors and other community providers may not be able to offer the first vaccines available because they may not have the freezers needed to store it, Dr. Martin Fenstersheib, Santa Clara County’s COVID-19 testing officer, told county supervisors at a meeting earlier this month.

Newsom said the state is looking to acquire 16 ultra-cold temperature freezers and 61 smaller freezers. He said the state already has identified regions to distribute these freezers, focusing on more rural areas that might have a hard time obtaining their own. 

Hospitals seeking their own freezers are already bumping into supply issues. “They are in many cases back-ordered until the spring,” said David Simon, a spokesperson for the California Hospital Association.

Yes, you’ll likely still have to wear a mask after you get a vaccine 

No vaccine candidate is 100 percent effective. And experts say while a COVID-19 vaccine is likely to protect you from serious illness, it remains to be seen whether it will keep you from passing the virus to someone else. Scientists also don’t know yet how long a vaccine’s protection will last.

The three leading vaccine candidates all require two shots, spaced a few weeks apart, so you won’t be fully protected after your first dose. You’ll want to continue to wear a mask to protect others until most people are fully immunized — and that could take many months.

“While experts learn more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide under real-life conditions, it will be important for everyone to continue using all the tools available to us to help stop this pandemic, like covering your mouth and nose with a mask, washing hands often, and staying at least 6 feet away from others,” the CDC notes

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  1. This article is atrocious mainstream media pro-big-pharma narrative, and doesn’t belong on a Conservative website. There’s no discussion about the health dangers of the vaccine, that the makers are completely shielded from liability for vaccine injury, that many people get sick from the injections, that it’s mainly been tested on young healthy individuals to skew the effectiveness rate higher, it’s much less effective than building up your immune system and having hydroxychloroquine and zinc around as a backup, that it’s likely to be mandatory which is a violation of people’s right to life and liberty, and that a majority of frontline healthcare workers don’t want to take it right away – they’d prefer to see how sick the rest of the population gets from taking it first.

  2. They can talk it up all they want to . I am not interested. Just like the flu-shot not INTERESTED EITHER.
    If you work in an environment that has lots of people who come by you or even hug and cough near you then be on the alert.
    Having to take two injections of the vaccine is what I will not do either. There are effects from it too.
    Taking my Ester-C, zinc, vitamin D3. and some other helpful backups and not getting overtired is just common sense health care.

  3. Shane Conway says

    I’m willing to bet that the state of California will find an excuse to halt the covid vaccinations. Why? The state would lose control over the daily lives of its citizens. Of course, the governor and his political allies would somehow qualify for the vaccinations first, but then they will say there is a flaw or too many adverse reactions. Perhaps medicinal marijuana, provided at taxpayers” expense, is the real cure. This is how the liberals will expand its use among the population and further degrade our societal brain power. An increase in mass idiocy equals more democrat voters.

    • Jesus Beltran says

      Shane Conway, I am willing to bet your boyfriend’s life that you are a racist scumbag who voted for the racist, pussy grabber criminal who is still ripping off millions of dollars in so-called donations from stupid idiots, racist scum like you because your racist, stinking cunt gets all excited, aroused and all wet when the criminal pussy grabbers locks up Latino and Black children in cages. It is an orange orangutan AKA the Pussy grabber German Pest.

  4. Why do we need to subject ourselves to a vaccine when there are multiple excellent treatment modalities for this, as long as the public becomes informed, which they are not at this time.

    There is no treatment for the flu, so vaccine, maybe, But COVID is treated very well as long as caught early with proper education to the public. Right now, however, likely on purpose, doctors and patients are not informed, and doctors also do not have all the treatments available for prescription. This must change.

  5. Douglas Settle says

    “Pfizer has vast experience and expertise in cold-chain shipping and has an established infrastructure to supply the vaccine worldwide, including distribution hubs that can store vaccine doses for up to six months. The company has developed specially designed, temperature-controlled shippers for the BNT162b2 vaccine candidate, which can maintain recommended storage conditions (-70°C ±10°C) up to 15 days. Each shipper contains a GPS-enabled thermal sensor to track the location and temperature of each vaccine shipment. Once thawed, the vaccine vial can be stored for up to 5 days at refrigerated (2 – 8oC) conditions.”

  6. Ditto

  7. Prediction; Newsome will overwhelm the vaccine distribution plan with his ‘equity’ metrics. The folks tasked to distribute vaccines will be forced to slow down the process to a crawl to assure no rich white person gets a vaccine ahead of a ‘person of color’.

    By the time the second round of vaccine supplies are available, California will be last in line because we will still have unused vaccine on hand.

  8. Jesus Beltran says

    I can’t wait until the racist, rapist, peeping Tom, sexual predator, child molester, child abuser, pussy grabber, perjurer, psychopath, maniac, pathological liar assassin is out of office so Interpol and The United Nations can do their job. We the people will make sure the racist, crooked, corrupt son of a bitch, his whole criminal family and all the racist criminals who helped him destroy the world’s economy and committed crimes against humanity pay for what they did to humanity. They can run, but they can’t hide. Puker, Calzon, Con-Hannity, Jessica Watters, Laura, Herpes Ingraham, Greg Gutless, Steve Goofey, Pete Gives Head, Brian the kill all minorities slut, Mark the snake Levin, you will all pay for your crimes against humanity, too. We have been watching you, racist idiots. Fox Cable Fake propaganda trash. We will put you out of business, racist criminals.

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