Logistics of distribution is a major challenge for health professionals

By Marty Cheek

Through the FDA’s emergency use authorizations, the first COVID-19 vaccines  from Pfizer and Moderna have been authorized for use, meaning COVID-19 vaccines are being allocated to Santa Clara County by the state of California.

The county’s Public Health Department will receive some of that vaccine directly and will also facilitate allocation of the drug to specific healthcare facilities according to the prioritization requirements set by the federal and state government.

Healthcare providers in Santa Clara County have received more than 94,805 COVID-19 vaccines, and the County continues its efforts to quickly vaccinate people in the highest risk categories, as set by the state and federal government. Medical first responders began receiving vaccinations last week, and these vaccinations continue through the coordinated efforts of Santa Clara County Public Health Department, the Santa Clara County Fire Department, and the Santa Clara County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Agency.

As of Dec. 31, healthcare providers in the county have received 40,605 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and 54,200 doses of the Moderna vaccine, plus additional deliveries directly to multi-county entities, such as Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Health. Additional shipments in January included second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

“Frontline medical responders provide crucial emergency assistance to those in need, and in turn face potential exposure to COVID-19 every day,” said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, COVID-19 Testing and Vaccine Officer for the County of Santa Clara in a press release. “This is a critical population that is both at-risk and essential to the health of the community.”

Since the Thanksgiving holiday, California has faced a surge of infections unparalleled across the country, leading throughout the month of December and January to continued daily record highs in hospitalizations and deaths. Despite the recent Food and Drug Administration’s approval of vaccines from various pharmaceutical companies, the logistics of distributing vaccines for COVID-19 and organizing the inoculation of individuals will be major challenges faced by health professionals and local leaders through the next 12 months.

County planning to inoculate residents and workers includes providing vaccine education and enrollment, storage and handling capacity assessment, and other activities.

In the first phase of vaccine roll out, the County Public Health Department will organize appointment-based vaccination clinics to vaccinate skilled nursing facility personnel working in Santa Clara County. Hospitals will receive their allocations directly and vaccinate their staff, beginning with those at highest risk. Large retail pharmacies will be receiving additional supplies to vaccinate people who live in certain types of nursing homes, through a program organized by the federal government.

Although the arrival of a small number of vaccines across the state and the county brings hope, the public still remains in the most dangerous phase of the pandemic, with COVID-19 spreading rapidly throughout the county, the state, and across the country. Distribution of the vaccine will follow the requirements from the federal and state governments, which set the sequence for groups to receive the vaccine.


Marty Cheek