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March 3, 2021

Santa Clara County submits Covid-19 vaccine plan as hospitals near capacity

FDA to make decision on vaccine soon

Santa Clara County officials announced Dec. 2 that they have submitted a Covid-19 vaccine distribution plan to the state, as the first batch of the vaccine is expected to be available in the coming weeks.

According to national news reports, an advisory committee will meet on Dec. 10 to review Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine and make a recommendation to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which will consider authorizing it for emergency use.

Moderna submitted an application to the FDA on Nov. 30 for its vaccine, which is expected to be reviewed after Pfizer’s.

On Dec. 2, Britain became the first country in the world to authorize a vaccine, according to the Associated Press.

Dr. Jennifer Tong, associate chief medical officer at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, said all counties are required to submit a distribution plan with the state.

While the number of doses the county will receive are currently unknown, Tong said Santa Clara County will follow federal and state directives by delivering the first vaccinations to health care workers and those living in long-term care facilities.

The first vaccines are likely to be complex logistically, she said, as they require ultra-cold storage, and only the sites approved by the state or county will be allocated those vaccines.

“We all must continue to do our part to stay safe while we wait,” Tong said. “We will receive a limited supply at first, and more will be coming over time. It might take many months before everyone who is interested in receiving a vaccine will be able to get one.”

The vaccine news comes at a time when capacity at Santa Clara County hospitals is reaching a critical point.

The five hospitals that serve South County and East San Jose collectively have less than a dozen ICU beds available, and only 44 ICU beds were available countywide as of Dec. 2, according to health officials.

There were 287 Covid-19 patients hospitalized in the county as of Dec. 1, including a total of 1,955 hospitalized patients overall, filling about 88 percent of the total hospital bed capacity in the county. 

Some hospitals in the county are suspending elective surgeries to free up capacity, according to Tong.

“The hospitals in our hardest-hit communities have the fewest beds available for those most in need,” she said.

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