SF expects batch of 12K COVID-19 vaccines by Dec. 15

Vaccine will not come soon enough to prevent current surge, officials warn

San Francisco expects to receive its first batch of the COVID-19 vaccine by next week, but it will not come in time to address the current surge in cases, officials said Wednesday.

Reiterating warnings of a “massive surge” of cases threatening to fill up hospital beds, Dr. Grant Colfax, head of the Department of Public Health, appealed to people to stay home as much as possible and follow the guidelines to beat back the virus.

“We are expecting 12,000 vaccine doses in our first allocation from the state and federal governments,” Colfax said at a Wednesday press conference with Mayor London Breed. “There is no vaccine approved in the United States by the FDA yet, but we anticipate that the first doses may arrive by Dec. 15. Under the state’s prioritization plan, the first to receive the vaccine will be acute care facilities, such as hospitals and some nursing homes. Widespread distribution could be underway by next spring or summer.”

But since the vaccine is “still months away from being widely available to the general public,” Colfax said, “The vaccine will not save us from this current national, state or local surge.”

San Francisco imposed the state’s regional stay-at-home order on Sunday, hoping the restrictions will bring down the most severe surge of cases since the pandemic began and prevent hospitals from being overloaded.

He said that COVID-19 cases are surging because of people’s social behavior, including activity around Thanksgiving.

“Since the week of Thanksgiving we have seen the average case rate per 100,000 skyrocket from 15 to 30,” Colfax said. “This case rate is a result of our behavior.”

He gave dire predictions of increased deaths and lack of hospital beds if people do not adhere to the restrictions.

“We are currently predicting that San Francisco will run out of intensive care unit beds by Dec. 27, in just 17 days,” Colfax said.

There were 123 COVID-19 patients in The City’s hospitals Wednesday, the highest number ever. Thirty were in intensive care unit beds, according to Colfax.

“That number is increasing dramatically every day,” he said.

The City estimates that the virus’ reproductive rate is at 1.5, meaning every infected person is spreading the virus to one and a half people.

“We are in the middle of a massive surge,” Colfax said. “The virus is everywhere in our city right now.”

Colfax said that decisions people make will make the difference in the severity and duration of the surge.

“Please save lives by staying home whenever possible and please follow the guidelines when you go out,” he said.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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