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COVID: UCSF, Zuckerberg San Francisco General Plan For Early Distribution Of Pfizer Vaccine

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) -- The Bay Area could be weeks away from receiving the first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, with two hospitals saying they are set to obtain doses.

UCSF and Zuckerberg San Francisco General will be among the seven California hospitals to get an early allocation of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine. But first, the Food and Drug Administration must grant an emergency use authorization.

The next meeting is December 10th.

"Until the FDA officially acts, no one will be getting the vaccine from that stockpile," said UC Berkeley epidemiologist Dr. Art Reingold.

If emergency use authorization is granted, UCSF said it is ready and could have the vaccine three to seven days after the authorization is granted.

The vaccine would arrive from Pfizer in Michigan on a truck.

"It's under very low freezer storage, so it would be very hard to put this on a plane," said Dr. Desi Kotis, chief pharmacy officer for UCSF Health. The vaccines will arrive packed in 80 pounds of dry ice pellets and be put immediately into ultracold storage freezers.

"We have enough freezer capacity for quite a few doses, in the hundreds of thousands of doses," Kotis said.

Each two milliliter vial holds five doses of dry vaccine. For injection, it must be thawed, reconstituted and administered within 48 hours of that thaw.

"It comes in these almost pizza boxes, nine by nine by two inch boxes and they come stacked in five. So, in one of these boxes is almost 1,000 doses," Kotis told KPIX 5.

The Pfizer vaccine is a two shot mRNA vaccine, with a second dose needed 21 days after the first injection to fully protect against the coronavirus.

There are reported side effects, including high fever, aches, fatigue and headache. In the 50,000 person Pfizer clinical trial, most people reported feeling side effects after the second dose was injected.

For that reason, UCSF said it won't immunize entire departments against COVID-19 at once.

"If they have symptoms, they might not be able to come to work with a high fever, right? So we want to make sure we don't vaccinate everyone who works in the emergency room at the same time, so we'll stagger how we vaccinate," said Kotis.

Who will get the first doses at UCSF? "Those working with COVID patients, those that may be in areas like the emergency room, urgent care centers, various clinics that have patients that may not know that they have COVID. So, whoever is at highest risk," the doctor went on to say. "This isn't just doctors and nurses, this is patient transporters, housekeepers, various technical staff, phlebotomists."

Other hospitals getting early access to the vaccine include UC Davis Medical Center, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and Valley Children's Hospital in Madera.

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