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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

San Diego County Gets First Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine Delivery

 December 22, 2020 at 10:21 AM PST

Speaker 1: 00:00 There are 20,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by a Moderna in San Diego County. It's the second Corona virus vaccine, granted emergency authorization by the FDA and CDC over the weekend and quickly shipped out. Here's Dr. John Bradley, a medical director of the division of infectious diseases at Rady children's hospital, which received 3,500 doses of the vaccine yesterday. Speaker 2: 00:24 This vaccine has been incredibly well studied, both vaccines, both Pfizer and Madrona, uh, 40,000 in the Pfizer trial and 30,000 in Madrona huge numbers. So to the best of our ability in medical science, which is at an incredible level, now this vaccine is safe and effective. Speaker 1: 00:43 Meanwhile, some of the first San Diego nursing home residents are getting vaccinated. Joining me to talk about the latest on the vaccine is Jonathan Busen biotech reporter for the San Diego union Tribune. Jonathan, welcome. Speaker 3: 00:55 Thank you for having me. So you reported Speaker 1: 00:57 San Diego now has enough doses of the two vaccines for all of San Diego counties, highest risk hospital staff to get one dose, but put that into context for us. Where are we overall in terms of being able to vaccinate other high risk groups? Speaker 3: 01:12 Yeah, we're still at the beginning of the beginning. So, you know, there are about 80 plus 82,000 hospital healthcare staff, uh, throughout the County and in different healthcare roles. Uh, about half of those are in this highest, highest risk group. So people who are working in ICU emergency rooms who have regular regular contact with COVID-19 patients. And we're pretty much at the point now where we can begin getting each of those people, their first of two shots. Uh, so they're going to need to get a second shot either three weeks down the line, if you're getting the Pfizer vaccine or four weeks down the line, uh, with the Madonna vaccine, but from there, first of all, there is still other people in the hospitals, other employees who aren't part of that frontline healthcare worker category. And there's also this other group of people who live in nursing homes, people who live in skilled nursing assisted living facilities, uh, places that accounted for at least around 20% of COVID deaths in San Diego County. And we're just beginning to see some of those folks get vaccinated. So we're still at a point where there's much more demand for vaccine than there is supply Speaker 1: 02:27 And the modern, a vaccine like Pfizer's is also an RNA type vaccine and is similarly reported to be 94.5% effective. Remind us how it works to protect against that Speaker 3: 02:38 Virus. Right? So both of these companies' vaccines use a molecule called messenger RNA. It's basically a little snippet, a little piece of the viruses genetic code, and that code has information for making the spike protein. So this is that protein on the surface of the virus that grabs onto yourselves and allows the virus to get in. So by teaching the body to build and then recognize that spike protein, the idea is to have an immune response that can prevent infection and also potentially kill infected cells when somebody gets exposed. Speaker 1: 03:16 But unlike the Pfizer vaccine, the modern vaccine does not need to be stored at ultra low temperatures. What's different about this vaccine? Speaker 3: 03:24 Well, that is the main difference that the Madonna vaccine can be kept in an ordinary freezer for long-term storage. I can also keep it in a refrigerator for about a month. So having a vaccine that you can keep in the fridge for a few weeks while getting it out to people that need it, uh, next to something that could be more accessible across the County. And also if you think at a national or international level Speaker 1: 03:48 And nursing home residents are being, uh, starting to get vaccinated, explain how the process here is going to work with the partnerships with pharmacist from CVS and Walgreens. And what's the timeline on that? Speaker 3: 04:02 Right? So there were a few nursing home residents that were actually vaccinated yesterday on Monday, but that was at a nursing home that's affiliated with sharp Chula Vista medical center, but probably the bulk of San Diego's nursing home residents are going to be vaccinated through a program that the CDC centers for disease control and prevention has set up with CVS and Walgreens. So the big retail pharmacies that everybody's familiar with and probably within walking distance to your home. So basically nursing homes have signed up to have either CVS or Walgreens bring in pharmacists and pharmacy technicians who are going to bring in vaccine and administer that in these facilities. So that should start in California the week of December 28. Uh, we don't know the exact timeline in terms of when certain facilities in San Diego are, are going to be getting vaccine. But, uh, we do know that several of them have signed up for that program. And the vast majority of facilities in California have signed up for that program as well. So we're going to see over the course of the next several weeks, uh, pharmacists going into these nursing homes and administering vaccine there, Speaker 1: 05:16 You know, the infection rate in San Diego County continues to break records with more than 3,200 new cases recorded a day, just over the weekend. Uh, so, you know, despite the vaccine, talk to me about why now isn't the time to let our guards down. Speaker 3: 05:31 Well, now isn't the time to let our guards down because we're still at a point where if you're listening to this conversation, you probably have not been vaccinated and you probably won't be for some time. Uh, we're talking about a very, very tiny number of people who are eligible to get the vaccine, and that's not going to change for several months. So the vaccine isn't really going to be there to save or protect people that get 19 right now. And we're already at a place where we're seeing many thousands of cases every day, hospitals are filling up to the point where they're essentially turning away ambulances and all, but the most dire of cases. Um, and so the people who are being impacted by this pandemic, aren't benefiting from that vaccine. So it might be good news and it is good news. But you know, when I talk to researchers in San Diego, they say, this isn't the end. It's not the beginning of the end. Uh, it might be the end of the beginning. So we still have to get through this winter. We still have to get into the spring, which is really when a vaccine will probably be widely available. And the more we do now to limit the spread of the virus the more quickly, and the more effectively a vaccine to bring an end to the pandemic or help bring an end. Speaker 1: 06:48 I've been speaking with Jonathan Musen biotech reporter for the San Diego union Tribune. Jonathan, thank you very much. Thanks for having me. [inaudible].

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The legislation extending aid to the unemployed, providing money for vaccine distribution and a round of $600 stimulus checks was attached to an annual government funding bill that tacked on other items.
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