4 Valley locations chosen to store, distribute COVID-19 vaccine

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Four Valley locations are preparing to receive the first shipments of the first COVID-19 vaccine, developed by Pfizer and Biotech.

In addition to Valley Children's Hospital in Madera, the state has identified Fresno, Tulare, and the Tuolumne County public health departments as locations that can receive, store and distribute the vaccine.

"We have been preparing ourselves to make sure that when a vaccine did become available, we had the capability to receive and distribute those vaccines to the doctors, nurses, and hospitals that need them most," says Fresno County supervisor Nathan Magsig.

Each location is equipped with freezer units that can store the vaccine at ultra-low temperatures prior to injection.

Fresno County is expecting to receive 7,800 doses but can store 100,000.

"As Pfizer continues to ramp up and Moderna as well, as soon as they get all of their approvals through the state and federal government those vaccines will start showing up here," Magsig says. "At this point, we are just waiting on word from the state that they have the vaccine."

Because of the limited supply, the state has made plans for the prioritization and allocation of the vaccine.

First up will be those most at risk of exposure including healthcare workers and residents of nursing and assisted living facilities.

"Our definition of health worker went so beyond just the providers of direct healthcare but all of the people working in the healthcare system including interpreters," says UCSF Fresno doctor Katherine Flores.

Among several advisory committees devising the vaccine roll-out, Flores was part of the Drafting Guidelines Workgroup.

Already 6 weeks into planning, they're making sure the vaccine rollout is equitable and taking into consideration risk factors like age and pre-existing conditions.

"You don't want to short change anybody but you want to make sure you are providing the vaccine to those who are at the highest risk," says Flores.

The next phase is still in the works.

No vaccine will leave Pfizer's Kalamazoo plant until FDA approval.

However, the company confirms they've been doing training deliveries since March, carried out in all 50 states.

UPS and Fedex saying they are ready to carry out the biggest mission in their company's history.

Pfizer will package vaccines in boxes with dry ice that will keep the vaccine very cold for several days and can be refilled with dry ice to keep the doses cold for up to 30 days.

US marshalls have confirmed their deputies will be involved in safeguarding the transit of vaccine, but there are many other moving parts when it comes to this rollout.

Each box containing the vaccine will have a tracker.

So Pfizer will have virtual eyes on every box's location and internal temperature from the second it leaves the factory to delivery.

The goal is to get it to each location within 24 - 48 hours of the FDA's approval.

Out of the 327,000 Pfizer doses coming to California, about 16,700 will be reserved for Central California. Fresno County is expecting to receive 7,800 of those doses.

In addition to Pfizer's own tracking system, UPS and FedEx say they will use monitoring and tracking technology of their own on each package.

"Our goal is to have 100% accuracy with delivering those packages on time," said UPS spokesperson Jim Mayer.

Valley doctors excited and optimistic over impending arrival of vaccine

EMBED More News Videos

'I will be elbowing my way to the front of the line to get this vaccine.'

Dr. Ajit Rai has been on the frontlines of the pandemic in ICUs in New York and here in the Valley. He will be among the other healthcare workers and residents of nursing and assisted living facilities who are set to receive the first doses of the vaccine.

"I will be elbowing my way to the front of the line to get this vaccine," he said. "Me, personally, I would much rather have some of these very minor side effects for a temporary duration rather than be one of my patients on a ventilator."

Dr. Rai says he's eager to see how vaccinations among his colleagues will ease the growing strain on the workforce and inside ICUs.

"Us getting below healthcare capacity," he said. "Doctors such as myself, not being overworked, working night after night in the intensive care unit."
Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.