SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — The first doses of the Pfizer vaccine made it to San Diego County the week of Dec. 14, 2020, and now that it’s been three weeks, those hospitals that started vaccinated early can start giving out the second rounds of doses.
Both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccine require a second dose. The Pfizer was the first vaccine to be distributed, and it requires a second dose 21 days later, with four days of leeway on either side. Both vaccines hit peak effectiveness seven days after the second dose was given.
Some of the first to start vaccinating frontline healthcare workers in San Diego County were Rady Children’s Hospital and UCSD Health.
Palomar Health is one of the San Diego hospitals that started vaccinating the week of Dec. 14, so they started giving out second doses on Jan. 4, 2021.
“Everyone has this almost a sigh of relief coming forward,” said Omar Khawaja, Palomar Health’s Chief Medical Officer.
Khawaja said about 2,500 of their 4,000 staff have already been vaccinated with the first dose as of Monday. He said they’ve already vaccinated all of their top tier of high-risk employees in that group. He was one of the people to get the second dose on Monday.
“A lot of us on the front lines have been very worried about not just ourselves but our family members and it does feel good to know that you’re putting yourself at risk but the chance that you’re going to infect a family member just went way down. It’s making a lot of us feel a lot more comfortable about the day-to-day job we have to do,” said Khawaja.
He said at Palomar Health, their focus is getting their staff vaccinated as quickly as possible so they can shift the focus to the community.
Doctor Christian Ramers is an infectious disease specialist and serves as the Chief of Population Health at Family Health Centers and part of San Diego County’s COVID-19 Vaccine Clinical Advisory Group, which is a team of people guiding the county through these vaccination efforts. He said one of their big messages to healthcare providers is to vaccinate as soon as possible.
“We’re really to infuse some urgency that as soon as you get these vaccines, you need to push them out into people’s arms because they do no good sitting in a freezer,” said Ramers.
While urgency is important, Ramers has concerns over a new conversation surrounding vaccinations. The FDA is meeting this week to consider giving half doses of the Moderna vaccine as a way to speed up the process. The U.S. Vaccine Chief says administering half doses of Moderna’s vaccine to people younger than 55 could make it available to twice as many people.
Ramers is concerned that cutting a dose in half could create problems.
“We’re really worried about a virus mutating and becoming resistant to the vaccine so that would be a disaster, so I think we should use these vaccines the way they were intended which is to give two full doses either 21 or 28 days apart and get that full immunity,” Ramers says.
He added that San Diego hospitals are at their limits right now, asking the community to do a better job of following guidelines.
“We’re just not really doing a great job of it, I have to say. Walk around town and watch. You can see people blatantly or inadvertently not doing what they’re supposed to do,” said Ramers.
Ramers also said that even though there will now be members of the community who are protected from the virus, everyone should still wear face masks and practice social distancing, because it's unclear if the vaccine does more than protect the person who got the shot from contracting coronavirus.
"Missing piece of information here is whether having the vaccine prevents you from being a carrier or from having an asymptotic infection or from infecting other people," Ramers said.