race for a vaccine

Santa Clara County Receives Nearly 100K Vaccines, 2nd Doses Start Next Week

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Santa Clara County's health care providers have received nearly 100,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses and several thousand health care workers and first responders have already been vaccinated, county officials said Thursday.

The county has received 40,605 doses of the vaccine developed by the pharmaceutical company Pfizer and its biotechnology partner BioNTech as well as 54,200 doses of the vaccine developed by the biotech company Moderna.

The county is in the process of vaccinating roughly 140,000 health care workers in accordance with state and federal guidance for the vaccine's rollout, according to Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, the county's COVID-19 testing and vaccine officer.

Firefighters and EMTs from across Santa Clara County rolled up their sleeves to receive their first doses of the coronavirus vaccine Thursday at the county fairgrounds in San Jose. Kris Sanchez reports.

"We are moving quickly toward getting everyone in the hospital sector vaccinated and we will then move on to additional tiers within that first phase," he said Thursday at a briefing on the pandemic.

In addition to front-line health care workers, the state's first phase of vaccinations includes residents and staff at long-term care facilities like nursing homes.

Vaccinations began in the county Dec. 17 with roughly 200 staff members at skilled nursing facilities. Second doses of the vaccine will be administered starting next week, according to Fenstersheib.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday that the state joined a federal partnership with CVS and Walgreens to also provide vaccinations at those long-term care facilities.

Fenstersheib said the pace at which the county is able to administer both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine will vary depending on how quickly the county receives more doses.

"We are working with the community to get providers all vaccinated so that they can then," vaccinate people when it is their turn, he said. "So we want people to still be patient."

The rate of vaccination is also not yet high enough to curb the virus' spread in the county, according to Dr. Ahmed Kamal, the county's COVID-19 director of health care preparedness.

On Oct. 30, he said, the county's rate of new cases per day per 100,000 people was as low as 4.5. As of Thursday, it's higher than 50.

"What we are seeing now is not normal," Kamal said. "It is an order of magnitude more than we saw just two months ago. We are clearly not out of the woods."

County officials encouraged residents to forego standard celebrations for New Year's Eve in an effort to reduce the virus' spread, warning that a bump in cases tied to year-end parties and other gatherings could overwhelm the county's already teetering hospital system.

"This is one celebration you will miss for a lifetime of experiences yet to come," said Dr. Marco Randazzo, an emergency department physician at O'Connor Hospital and Saint Louise Regional Hospital.

"By staying home, you are giving your loved ones and health care workers a fighting chance," Randazzo said. "By staying home, you will save lives."

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