By Debra Moore
Plumas County Public Health Director Andrew Woodruff announced that 167 doses of the Pfizer vaccine could arrive in the county next week. The doses are expected to arrive at Shasta Regional Medical Center in Redding and be distributed from there.
Woodruff made the announcement during the Dec. 8 board of supervisors meeting. “If we all do our part in the coming weeks; if we do all that we can to support our businesses in creative ways; this could be the last surge that we experience in this pandemic,” Woodruff said.
The vaccine will be made available to all three area hospitals. “Every one of our hospitals has applied for the privilege of giving the vaccine,” said Dr. Mark Satterfield, the county’s health officer.
The vaccine will be divided equally between the three health care districts — the rationale is that Seneca in Chester and Eastern Plumas in Portola have skilled nursing facilities attached, while Plumas District Hospital in Quincy is busier due to its obstetrics program and surgeries.
Both Woodruff and Satterfield said that health care workers would be prioritized in receiving the vaccine. Two doses must be given, about a month apart. The vaccine is 95 percent effective, which Satterfield deemed “impressive.”
Satterfield said that each hospital would be responsible for determining who would receive the vaccine, following guidelines released by the California Department of Public Health, which prioritizes the most critical healthcare workers.
Shawn McKenzie, CEO of Seneca Healthcare District, said in an interview Tuesday, that the hospital is developing a list of the first individuals to receive the vaccine.
At Eastern Plumas Health Care, employees were polled to see who wanted to take the vaccine. Michelle Romero, the hospital’s infection prevention specialist, said the results were about 50-50. The list will be assembled from those who want to receive the vaccine.
JoDee Read, the CEO of Plumas District Hospital, said her staff is also split on receiving the vaccine, but personnel will be prioritized with medical providers and nursing staff considered first. Attention will also be paid to departments with limited staff to carry out their functions. Read added that all vaccinations will be voluntary.
Vaccines that will be made available to the general public are expected in the April/May timeframe, Satterfield said.
This first round of vaccine is from Pfizer; but there are several others that could be available soon. Next up would be Moderna. The advantage to subsequent vaccines is that they don’t need to be stored at the sub freezing temperatures required by Pfizer. However, Satterfield said that despite the strict temperature guidelines for transporting and storing the Pfizer vaccine, once it has been defrosted, the vaccine remains viable for five days.
In addition to the healthcare facilities, eventually local pharmacies such as RiteAid will be administering vaccines.
Although the vaccine is on the horizon, Satterfield said that the next “100 days is really key,” and encourages the public to stay home, wear masks, wash their hands and social distance. He compared fighting the virus to what was experienced during World War II and the sacrifices that people were called on to make. “The enemy now is invisible, but no less lethal,” he said.