Public Health Officer Dr. Mark Satterfield and Dr. Jeff Kepple rolled up their sleeves this afternoon, Dec. 21, and received the first of two doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine administered at Plumas District Hospital in Quincy.
Prior to receiving the vaccination, both doctors, as well as Public Health Director Andrew Woodruff, discussed the vaccine’s value, its path into the county, as well as a number of questions posed by Plumas News. The full interview will be available for viewing tomorrow on YouTube and accessible through the Plumas District Hospital, Public Health or Plumas News websites.
Two employees from Public Health — the public information officer and its nursing director — drove to Mercy Medical Center in Redding this morning, Dec. 21, to pick up the Pfizer vaccine which is kept at subzero temperatures, requiring a special freezer. Woodruff said Public Health will be receiving such a freezer in January and, “in the future, we will be able to receive Pfizer directly and we’ll be the regional dispenser.” Once thawed, the vaccine must be used within five days.
While Drs. Satterfield and Kepple received the Pfizer vaccine today, Woodruff announced that 200 doses of Moderna also arrived at Public Health today and will be distributed throughout the county just as the Pfizer vaccine was. Because it doesn’t have the same temperature requirements, it was shipped directly to Plumas County.
Woodruff also discussed the tier approach to distribution with frontline healthcare workers and those in assisted living centers given first priority. As the vaccines become more available, subsequent tiers will roll out and Woodruff said the county will follow the national guidelines.
When asked when the vaccine could become available to the general public, Satterfield said that it could be as early as April.
In receiving the vaccine today, both Satterfield and Kepple wanted to demonstrate the safety of the vaccine and their belief that this is the first step to ending the pandemic. Kepple said he was encouraging his entire family to get the vaccine when it becomes available, because even though he and his wife and three daughters, as well as two son-in-laws, aren’t in high risk groups they don’t want to pass the virus on to others. And even those that aren’t considered high risk — under 65 and without underlying health conditions — can’t be assured that they aren’t at risk for serious outcomes. Kepple added that every day 3,000 people are dying from the virus in the United States, which is now the leading cause of death surpassing heart disease and cancer.
Now that they have received the vaccine, what side effects or “reactogenics,” which Kepple said is the most appropriate term, should be expected. Kepple explained the word reactogenics is preferred to the term side effects because “This is what your body is supposed to be doing in response to the vaccine.” The doctors said that soreness at the injection site, a low grade fever and minor body aches could be expected, though some people don’t experience any symptoms. It does appear that the reaction increases with the second dose, which will be taken within 21 days.
Kepple also warned that as millions of people begin receiving the vaccine, there may be some reports of people who say that they contracted COVID through the vaccine. He said that what can actually occur is what happens with other vaccines — they could be incubating the disease even before they receive the vaccine — but it hasn’t manifested itself yet.
The final message from both doctors is that they have confidence in the vaccine. They have reviewed the studies and the research. They took the vaccine themselves today and are encouraging everyone to follow suit as it becomes available to them. They both hope that it is the beginning of the end. “This is an exciting day,” Kepple said.