Local health officials discuss COVID-19 vaccine arriving in Central California

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Valley Children's Hospital has begun administering the Pfizer COVID vaccine to its staff.

Dr. Nael Mhaissen was among the first health care workers in the valley to get a shot.

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"It's a great pleasure, really," he said. "I feel proud of what the scientific community and what the community at large was able to achieve. Within one year, we have a vaccine that seems to have very excellent results."

Dr. Mhaissen, Merced County Health Officer Dr. Salvador Sandoval, the county's Nursing Director, Donna Chin, and Fresno County Community Health Division Manager, Joe Prado, all took part in our discussion.

To watch the full discussion, click here to download ABC30's Connected TV Apps.

Merced County is awaiting its first shipment of 975 doses. It was preparing a low-temperature freezer to store the vaccine. Hospitals look at risk factors such as age and health issues as they determine who gets the shot first.

"They want to make sure they are vaccinating those that are caring for those COVID patients and the high-risk patients, and help protect those nurses first and the staff that are taking care of them as well," Chin said.

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Heath officials attribute part of the current COVID surge to Thanksgiving get-togethers.

As we head into Christmas and New Year's, they say it's important we keep our masks on and avoid large gatherings.
"Let us focus in on health care workers and as we move into essential workers, be patient through that as well," Prado said. "And so if you are part of the general population, we're not forgetting you. As soon as the supplies come, we're going to make them available to the general population."

Some people have indicated in surveys they don't plan to get the vaccine when it becomes available.

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Our panelists say a Valley-wide effort to educate the public, especially in communities where language barriers may exist, will boost the vaccination rate.

"I think some of the negativity against the vaccine will start disappearing once we're seeing the positive effects of getting vaccinated," Dr. Sandoval said. "By the spring and summer, hopefully, we'll be able to encourage way more of the public to get the vaccination."

Our medical leaders added Valley counties already have their orders in for the vaccine made by Moderna.

FDA authorization is expected this week.
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