Solano County is expected to receive approximately 7,900 doses of COVID-19 vaccine over the next week, which will be reserved for health care workers and other at-risk populations.
Solano Public Health and NorthBay Healthcare made the announcement in a news conference held over Microsoft Teams. The doses will consist of 3,900 from Pfizer and another 4,000 from Moderna, pending federal approval.
Jayleen Richards, Solano public health administrator, said COVID-19 has been a concern since it was first made public in January. This was only exacerbated in February when the first cohort of Americans flying back from Wuhan, China were transported to Travis Air Force Base in quarantine at the start of the month and the discovery that the first community-transmitted case in America occurred in the county later that month.
“We’re happy that we’re at the place now that we are talking about the vaccine and the rollout of the vaccine in our community,” she said.
Dr. Bela Matyas, Solano’s public health officer, said the community-acquired case in February triggered the first hospital outbreak at NorthBay Medical Center in Vacaville.
“With NorthBay working with PDC (Healthcare), that actually resulted in very substantial improvements in the guidelines for health care providers throughout the country,” he said. “Our health care providers, our hospitals in particular have played a very important and critical in this pandemic here in the country.”
With that, Matyas announced that Solano would be receiving deliveries of 3,900 doses from Pfizer this week, with an additional 4,000 doses from Moderna expected next week. In keeping with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and California Department of Public Health guidelines, he said the vaccines would be directed to those at the highest risk of contracting or being exposed to the virus. These include front-line health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities.
The vaccines will be distributed in phases based on risk and level of exposure, Matyas said. They will be administered in two doses three weeks apart.
Regarding the safety of the vaccines, Matyas said Pfizer and Moderna had undergone rigorous testing and the vaccines had been reviewed by CDPH.
“The state of California, along with other western states, has conducted a redundant review,” he said. “They, too, have identified that these vaccines are safe and they are effective.”
Like any vaccine, Matyas said there was the possibility of side effects, but the ones most commonly reported so far have been minor ones like moderate fever, swelling, redness and fatigue. For those who have had past severe allergic reactions to reactions, Matyas suggests they discuss the risks with their doctors.
While the current vaccines are being prioritized for those at highest risk, Matyas anticipates that vaccines will be widely available at local health care providers by spring for the wider population to receive them.
Dr. Seth Kaufman, chief medical officer and emergency room physician at NorthBay, reiterated that it had been a long journey since the first COVID patient arrived.
“Now we can see a light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.
Kaufman said NorthBay would be ready to vaccinate more than 500 of its front-line staff and physicians.
“This is the first day of a long journey to restore normalcy,” he said.
Brad Boyd, a respiratory care practitioner who was the first health care worker to volunteer for vaccination, said he wanted to inspire others.
“I hope to give courage to other front-line health care workers who may still be in doubt about the vaccine and hope to give them courage to come forward and join me in getting the vaccine,” he said.
Ted Selby, health services administrator with Solano Public Health, said the county would adhere to the distribution guidelines outlined by the CDPH and CDC and would prioritize the vaccines for intensive care unit and hospital emergency staff, COVID-19 unit staff, COVID-19 vaccination staff, skilled nursing facility and long-term care staff and residents, and COVID-19 transportation staff. The county would be storing them in eight different ultra-cold deep freezers.
“These are not your average freezers that are used in pharmacies and labs,” he said. “These are very specialized freezers.”
Selby said Solano would also rely on community organizations and public officials to encourage residents to use the vaccines when they become available.
Matyas said that all five hospitals in Solano would receive the vaccines, and they would eventually be delivered to David A. Grant Medical Center at Travis as well.
Solano County Supervisor Erin Hannigan said the news provides optimism for the year ahead.
“This is a time to be hopeful, and it signals the beginning of the end,” she said. “(The) vaccine is going to be that critical tool in that fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, and we want to instill in our community that the vaccine is safe.”
In the meantime, Solano Public Health is encouraging people to stop the spread by frequently washing hands with soap and water, covering coughs and sneezes, staying home if sick or inhibiting symptoms, and wearing a mask and staying 6 feet apart.