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Santa Clara County Submits Vaccine Distribution Plan to State

Santa Clara County health officials on Wednesday said they had submitted their vaccine distribution plan to the state, a requirement of all counties in California.

Officials said the plan, which will soon be made available to the public on the county’s website, prioritizes people most at risk of exposure to COVID-19, including front-line health care workers.

Dr. Jennifer Tong, associate chief medical officer for Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, said that while the county does not yet know how many doses of the vaccine it will initially receive, it has begun preparations for distribution.

“We are prepared to store and then distribute the full volume of what we receive,” said Tong, noting that the county expects to receive vaccines from multiple manufacturers.

At least one of those vaccines (produced by drugmaker Pfizer/BioNTech) has to be stored at very low temperatures, requiring ultra-cold freezers, and must be administered in two separate doses. It has shown to be 95% effective in preventing infection.

Tong said she had been on the phone just before the press conference “with a group that was telling me that freezers had arrived on a truck as of yesterday. Multiple freezers have been installed in parts of the county buildings that we own and operate.”

Additional freezers are also being purchased and installed by private health care providers, she added.

Tong said the county plans to electronically track who gets the vaccine, as well as their ZIP codes and age groups, with the intention of delivering that data to the state.

Tong, noted however, that the positive news comes at a time when hospital capacity in the county is stretched increasingly thin.

“We are especially concerned because none of the hospitals serving South County and East San Jose had more than five ICU beds available as of yesterday,” she said.

That means hospitals serving communities hit the hardest by the virus have the fewest beds available with staff now redistributing patients to other hospitals in the county as needed, she said.

There are currently about 44 ICU beds available countywide, according to health officials.

About 88% of total hospital beds in the county are occupied— both with COVID-19 patients and others. Hospitals have plans to activate surge beds as needed.

The rate of new infections in the county has recently skyrocketed, with more than 550 new cases recorded per day over the last week, a nearly 90% increase from two weeks ago. At least 486 county residents have died from the virus.

County officials recently implemented new travel restrictions, including a mandatory 14-day quarantine for most travelers coming from more than 150 miles away.

— Polly Stryker (@hamrashaar)

Copyright 2020 KQED