San Diego military will be among first to get vaccine

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SAN DIEGO — Staff at Naval Medical Center San Diego said they expect a shipment of Pfizer’s new coronavirus vaccine to arrive Monday morning.

The first doses left a Michigan facility Sunday bound for distribution centers across the nation. The Department of Defense chose two sites in San Diego to receive shipments: Naval Medical Center San Diego and Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton.

“The great, bright light of hope in this whole unprecedented pandemic is that we seem to have, now, one FDA available vaccine, the Pfizer vaccine, with perhaps the Moderna vaccine to be approved next week,” Alvarado Hospital Epidemiologist Dr. Michael Butera said. “So we may have more than one vaccine available to us under an emergency use authorization. The hope is that they’ll be able to rapidly crank up the supply.”

The Department of Defense said its initial supply of more than 43,000 doses will go to uniformed service members, both active and reserve. The County of San Diego said it expects to receive 28,000 doses of the vaccine.

“A significant percentage of those will go to long-term care facility residents and staff. And those are your group of patients that are at highest risk of severe disease if they get it. And also it will relieve some of the burden on the hospitals,” Butera said.

Sunday’s data from the county showed 18% of area ICU beds were available. Available ICU capacity in the Southern California region dropped to 4.2%.

Butera warned if people don’t social distance and wear masks through the holidays, it could get worse before it gets better.

“Cases that occur from exposures now, and the cases that occur from exposures during the holiday weeks, will continue to burden hospitals for another two to three weeks out and well into January. And this is our fear,” Butera said.

Navy officials expect to be able to begin vaccinations at both sites in San Diego as early as Wednesday if the doses arrive as expected Monday.

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