LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Cedars-Sinai Medical Center received its first supply of coronavirus vaccines on Tuesday, while hospitals in Orange County will begin receiving shipments on Wednesday.
The prominent nonprofit Los Angeles hospital reported Monday that the first healthcare workers to be vaccinated will be those working in intensive care units and its emergency departments. It’s unclear exactly how many doses it was receiving.
The hospital noted that getting the vaccine is voluntary.
Cedars-Sinai will be storing the vaccine in ultra-cold freezers that keep temperatures below minus-80 degrees Celsius. Pharmacists are overseeing the handling of the doses.
“It’s very, very cold,” Cedars-Sinai Chief Pharmacy officer Rita Shane said Tuesday. “You can see the steam coming out of the boxes, and we secured them and we’re really excited.”
Cedars-Sinai will serve as a vaccine distribution site for five hospitals in L.A. County. It has capacity to house more than 450,000 doses onsite.
Meanwhile, 25,000 doses of the vaccine are being flown in to John Wayne Airport in Orange County on Wednesday.
The University of California Irvine Medical Center in Orange will begin administering vaccines Wednesday night. Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach will administer the vaccine to frontline workers beginning Thursday morning.
On Monday, nurses at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center became the first people in Southern California to receive Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccination. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Mayor Eric Garcetti were on hand for the historic event.
L.A. County expects to receive nearly 83,000 doses of the vaccine this week, with the initial doses distributed to 83 acute-care hospitals for administration to critical frontline workers. L.A. County anticipates receiving another 150,000 doses of vaccine by the end of December, followed by weekly allotments of 250,000 beginning in January.
California as a whole is expected to receive 327,600 doses in the first allotment. Pending federal approval of the Moderna vaccination, the state could receive another 672,600 doses within a week, and as many as 2.16 million doses by the end of the year.
After the distribution of vaccines to health care workers, skilled nursing facilities and long-term care staff and residents is completed, priority will then move to “essential workers” and then to people at highest risk of severe illness from the virus, such as seniors or those with underlying health conditions. The vaccine must be given in two doses, 21 days apart.
The Pfizer vaccine was co-developed by German partner BioNTech. It needs to be stored at minus-70 degrees Fahrenheit. Each box is being shipped with 50 pounds of dry ice and 20 pounds of vaccine, along with GPS trackers and temperature checks.
On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration authorized the emergency use of the Pfizer vaccine. Then on Sunday, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and prevention did the same, allowing for the vaccine to be administered nationwide. The first freight trucks carrying about 184,000 vials rolled out of the Pfizer plant in Kalamazoo, Mich., on Sunday.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)