California Works to Secure Millions of Vaccine Doses As COVID-19 Surge Pushes State to Brink
If all goes according to plan, a little more than 1 million California healthcare workers could soon be vaccinated against COVID-19. While the news offers much needed hope, it does not provide us a way out of the current surge. Still, things are at least moving in the right direction.
Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that the state will secure about 2 million doses by the end of the year — those are in addition to the 327,000 Pfizer doses expected to arrive as early as next week. The governor said the additional doses will be supplied by a mixture of Pfizer, Moderna and possibly other vaccine makers.
Both the Pfizer and Moderna formulas require two doses for maximum effectiveness.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been focused on reviewing Pfizer data for consideration of an emergency-use authorization. They released analysis Tuesday morning finding that “no specific safety concerns identified would preclude issuance of an EUA.” It has been found that side effects — reaction at the injection site, headaches and fatigue — are common but that serious side effects are rare.
It’s expected that the FDA will issue the approval as soon as Thursday.
The FDA analysis confirmed Pfizer’s claim of 95 percent effectiveness one week after both doses are administered. The doses have to be given three weeks apart. According to the best information available, those designated as first recipients can be 95 percent protected within one month of the first dose date.
The UK began administering the Pfizer vaccination Monday — a 90-year-old woman was the first person in the country to receive the injection.
In California, frontline healthcare workers will be given the first rounds, followed by seniors in long-term care facilities. The priority for healthcare workers is an effort to keep hospitals staffed through the trying winter. The state’s approximate 2.4 million healthcare workers are exposed to the virus regularly and often forced to quarantine, straining the essential workforce at a time when ICU availability is rapidly shrinking.
While data suggests the vaccinations are very effective at protecting individuals from serious illness, it is not known whether people who have been vaccinated can still transmit the virus to others. Pfizer Chairman Albert Bourla told Lester Holt in an interview that the company is “not certain” about that scenario and added:
“This is something that needs to be examined.”
The reality is that masks and distancing will still be required after people are vaccinated in case they can carry and infect others.