San Francisco began administering the first doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday to frontline health care workers, city officials said.
The vaccinations began after Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital on Monday received batches of the vaccine produced by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech, one of four facilities in California to get the first shipments.
“This is a historic day for our city and, we hope, the start of a turning point in our response to COVID-19,” Mayor London Breed said in a statement. “This has been a really tough year, and this is good news for our city and for the fight against COVID.”
San Francisco General, where the first dose was administered, received an initial 2,000 doses of the vaccine Monday morning, Dr. Grant Colfax, head of the Department of Public Health said. The Food and Drug Administration authorized the vaccine for use last week.
Dr. Antonio Gomez was the first person to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in San Francisco just after 9 a.m. Gomez, the medical director of Critical Care Services at San Francisco General, has treated the most critically ill COVID-19 patients.
“We all realize the importance of today for our city, state and country, that there is now more vaccine coming and (we can) hopefully put this to an end,” Gomez said outside the hospital shortly after being immunized.
The second person to receive the vaccine was nurse Phung Nguyen, who works in San Francisco General’s intensive care unit.
San Francisco anticipates receiving an initial supply of 12,675 vaccine doses from the state and federal government. City officials said the doses will be allocated among San Francisco’s acute care hospitals and facilities based upon their number of healthcare workers and the number of COVID-19 patients in their care.
The vaccine requires two shots spaced apart by 21 days. San Francisco expects to receive weekly batches of the vaccine from the state.
A combined 33,150 vaccine doses arrived in California Monday at the four sites. Twenty-four additional locations were expected to receive vaccine doses Tuesday, and five more on Wednesday.
Gov. Gavin Newsom said at a press conference Tuesday that the state is expected to receive by Wednesday about 60 percent of the initial commitment from Pfizer for 327,600 total vaccine doses.
Newsom also said that they have received another commitment from Pfizer for the state to receive an additional 393,900 doses “as early as next week.”
The state is also expecting to receive 672,000 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the month, upon its approval for use by the FDA.
The vaccines are first being administered to health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities, which include nursing homes, under the state’s guidelines. Newsom said about three million people fall into this category.
He said that the state is focusing next on vaccinating another 8 million essential workers, but there remain ongoing discussions on whether teachers, farm workers or grocery store employees will be prioritized in this next phase.
While the vaccine was celebrated Tuesday, it comes at the most challenging time of the pandemic with historic highs of new daily cases and intensive care unit beds quickly filling up.
Officials warned that it will take people adhering to regional stay-at-home orders and following guidelines to wear masks and socially distance to bring down the ongoing third surge, which Newsom said was “the most challenging and difficult surge we have experienced since the beginning of this pandemic.”
The state is seeing an average of 32,523 new cases per day and a 14-day positivity rate of 10.7 percent.
Hospitalizations have increased to 14,283, up from the roughly 8,500 at the start of the month. COVID-19 patients in the ICU jumped from 2, 006 to 3,081 during the same time.
Bay Area ICU bed capacity has dropped to 17.8 percent. Statewide, the ICU capacity is 5.7 percent.
There are an average of 163 people dying per day from the illness, when just a month ago the average was 41.
“There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but we are still in the tunnel,” Newsom said.
A pool report from the San Francisco Chronicle contributed to this story.