On Wednesday, Toni Luckett, a surgical nurse at Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, was the first to get the new Pfizer vaccine against the contagious coronavirus COVID-19.
Next came Dr. Laura Likar, a pulmonologist. Then Cesar Castillo, who works in environmental services, Sally Redemann-Knowles, a pharmacist, and Marika Riggs, a registered nurse in the intensive care unit.
Unpacking the vaccine out of the box, Dominican health-care workers gave a big cheer, saying, “Thank you, county!”
The vaccine, fast-tracked by the federal government, arrived less than a year after the first virus case was reported in Santa Cruz County in late January.
At that time, no one knew deadly it would be.
So far, the virus has claimed 60 lives locally and more than 21,000 statewide — proving to be especially deadly among older people, grandmothers, grandfathers and great-grandparents, and people with underlying conditions.
The vaccine arrived amidst an unprecedented surge of cases locally, regionally and statewide. Intensive care units in the Bay Area region, which includes Santa Cruz County, are near capacity, triggering stay-at-home orders for the next three weeks.
“In Santa Cruz County, we have all made sacrifices to slow the spread of the virus and adapt to a new normal. The next steps in our pandemic response are widespread vaccinations and community recovery,” said Dr. Gail Newel, health officer for the County of Santa Cruz. “The delivery of these safe and effective vaccines are a welcome step in that direction.”
She was part of a group of health officers in the San Francisco Bay region that issued a join statement Tuesday when the vaccine arrived, calling it
Vaccine “a critical tool to help fight this pandemic.”
Hospital workers are the first to get the vaccine under a federal and state framework adopted locally.
Next will be residents in nursing homes, where the virus has been especially deadly.
The Bay Area’s health officers believe, as federal officials do, that these vaccines are safe and effective, and that with practices such as wearing masks and physical distancing (six feet from people outside your household) will save lives and ultimately end the pandemic.
Other key steps to fight the pandemic include identifying and isolating people diagnosed positive, and tracing and quarantining contacts.
For the public this also means avoiding gatherings, postponing travel, and staying home whenever possible.
The Bay Area group include 12 health officers for the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Benito, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Sonoma and the City of Berkeley.
All of the region’s health officers plan to take the vaccine when the opportunity comes.
Vaccines for the general public may be available by early summer, they said.