First COVID-19 vaccine shipments begin arriving in Riverside County

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PALM SPRINGS (CNS) – The first shipments of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine started arriving in Riverside County Thursday, Dec. 17, a day earlier than expected.
County spokeswoman Brooke Federico said the first batch of 14,625 doses, originally slated to begin arriving Friday, began arriving Thursday at hospitals on both ends of the county.
The county is expecting more than 25,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine over the next two weeks in total, with some going to the hospitals directly and the rest to the county.
Health care workers at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs were among the first to be inoculated.
“It’s a beautiful feeling here. We’re all very excited and hopeful that this is the beginning of a new chapter,” said Todd Burke, spokesman for Tenet Healthcare, which operates the hospital.
Four frontline health care workers and a member of the hospital’s governing board were each inoculated with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine shortly after the hospital received 975 doses directly from the manufacturer early Thursday, hospital officials said.
Those inoculated include an anesthesiologist, nursing assistant, respiratory therapist and infectious disease physician.
Desert Regional will begin widespread vaccination of additional frontline health care workers Thursday evening. The hospital has the capacity to administer 120 doses per day, Burke said.
The hospital is expecting another 165 does to be sent from Riverside County in the near future.
The vaccine has been found to be 95% effective in preventing COVID-19, according to Pfizer and U.S. officials.
Riverside University Medical Center in Moreno Valley also started
receiving its allotment of 1,900 vaccines directly from Pfizer, the largest
dispensation of any county hospital.
“A handful of hospitals will receive vaccines directly, but the majority will come to county Department of Public Health and then be distributed,” the agency’s director, Kim Saruwatari, told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. “High-risk employees will be covered first.”
“After the general and acute-care hospitals are served, skilled nursing facilities will be next, then first responders — emergency medical technicians and paramedics,” she said.
The second shipment of between 10,000 and 11,000 vials will be in the county’s possession between Dec. 21 and Dec. 24, according to Saruwatari.
“We have distribution plans in place and will get the vaccines out as fast as we can,” she told the board, adding that hospitals are expected to carry out their vaccination programs within a five-day period.
Federico said updated totals and dates for next week’s allotment were not yet available.
Saruwatari said area pharmacies will be partnering with the county to provide shots. The exact timeline for offering vaccinations to the general public was not detailed.
While the Pfizer vaccine is going nationwide following U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval, the other SARS-Cov-2 vaccine, manufactured by Moderna, is not yet available, Saruwatari said, and she did not have a prediction for when the county might receive doses.