UC San Diego Health announced on Jan. 15 that it would begin administering COVID-19 vaccinations to patients 65 and older. San Diego County currently has plans to vaccinate Phase 1A-Tier 1, 2 and 3 members, which includes health care workers, paramedics, EMTs, residents in assisted-living facilities, community health workers, pharmacy staff, and speciality clinics.
UCSD Health hopes to vaccinate approximately 500 patients per day at UCSD Health facilities, and 10,000 UCSD Health employees have already received their first doses. Plans to vaccinate patients 65 and older began on Jan. 21.
However, this decision has come as a surprise because many officials have said they do not have enough doses to give the vaccine to the patients in Phase 1A. Until recently, San Diego facilities had only been giving the vaccination to Tier 1A members. Local health systems, including Scripps, Sharp, Kaiser Permanente, and Paradise Valley Hospital have all announced they currently do not have enough of the vaccine.
San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said to NBC San Diego that, “It’s great that the state said, ‘Hey, folks 65 and older are eligible to get vaccines,’ but that requires counties to actually have the vaccines.”
There are 620,000 health care workers and long-term health care facility residents in Tier 1A in San Diego. The expanded criteria of 65 and older patients adds another 500,000 people to receive the vaccine.
San Diego County has received more than 241,000 doses of the vaccine and has administered more than 92,000 shots. UCSD Health, the County, and other partners recently collaborated to open a new vaccination super station at Tailgate Park, outside of Petco Park, to distribute the shots.
Patients will receive an invitation through an electronic medical record or from their health care provider if they are eligible to receive the vaccine. However, appointments are limited by how many doses are available. According to Scripps Health, approximately 9,000 people tried to concurrently book an appointment when information about the vaccine was made public. People have been frustrated because of the confusion surrounding who specifically is eligible for the vaccine; moreover, many San Diego residents have complained of long lines and long traffic lines near vaccination sites.
Patients 65 and older are at higher risk to be more seriously affected by COVID-19. According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, more than one in seven, or 15 percent of, San Diego county residents aged 80 and older have died from COVID-19.
Two COVID-19 vaccines created by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are currently available for patients to receive. They are both given in two doses (21 days apart for the Pfizer vaccine and 28 days apart for Moderna). Both vaccines are around 95 percent effective at preventing the virus within a few weeks of receiving both doses.
UCSD Molecular Biology Professor Stephen Hedrick said, “A vaccinated person has a reduced possibility of experiencing the disease and its long-term side effects, and virtually no chance of dying from COVID. Furthermore, a vaccinated person will not spread the disease thus reducing the epidemic and possibly saving lives. Thus far, the only adverse reactions to the vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer have been allergic reactions … However, allergic reactions are very rare and with treatment, there is full recovery. That is the only infrequent downside–an uncomfortable episode to be sure, but full recovery.”
The county hopes to vaccinate essential workers, like teachers, police officers, and grocery store workers in February. A specific timeline for the general population over 16 years old has not been given but some students have been able to get the vaccine through their medical backgrounds.
Roger Revelle College freshman Sarina Chadha said that she “decided to get the vaccine because [she] understands how science and medicine works … by getting the vaccine, [she] will be at least 80% immune, which is life changing for people. [She] plans on getting the second dose in February and will then be almost 100% immune. Once everyone is vaccinated, we will have herd immunity, which will help bring us back to normalcy.”
UCSD Health encourages all students and workers to sign up for a MyUCSDChart account to receive information about the vaccine and to only use the phone lines for medical-related questions. UCSD is also encouraging students to continue wearing masks, staying six feet apart from others, washing hands often, and activating the CA COVID-19 Notify program on your phone.
For more information, please visit the county website.
Photo courtesy of Erik Jepsen for UC San Diego.