VISALIA, Calif. (KFSN) -- The COVID-19-induced surge at Kaweah Delta Medical Center is still intensifying this week.
But there is hope on the horizon, as some of their workers are just days away from receiving the first of two coronavirus vaccine doses.
First in line to be immunized: the medical staff at highest risk of exposure to the virus.
"It's not mandatory," said Kaweah Delta Medical Center CEO Gary Herbst. "But we absolutely will be making it available to our healthcare workers and encouraging them to take it."
Before getting to the hospital, Tulare County's first allotment of the Pfizer vaccine - 3,000 doses - will arrive at the county public health lab in the city of Tulare.
For long-term storage of the vaccine, the county has one ultra-low temperature freezer and six more on the way.
It hasn't been determined if county workers will store the first doses in the existing freezer, or if they will use another storage method until they can deliver them to their final destinations. The final destinations are: Kaweah Delta, Sierra View Medical Center in Porterville, and some of the county's skilled-nursing facilities (each will receive one case, or about 1,000 doses).
Kaweah Delta's CEO said workers will continue to wear masks after the first dose, as immunity doesn't kick in until after the second one.
"I always describe (to) people that that first vaccine, that first shot, kind of primes the pump, and that second shot cranks the engine," Herbst said. "So that's when your body starts creating the immune system response to target the virus."
"So this first allocation, 100% of it will be given to individuals who are wanting to be vaccinated," Tulare County Public Health Spokesperson Carrie Monteiro said. "And Pfizer has informed us that they will have the second allocation for those first doses ready and available within the window of when the second dose needs to be administered."
Monteiro says Moderna, another vaccine manufacturer, has committed to ship 5,500 doses to Tulare County hospitals and nursing homes.
By tracking who gets which vaccine and when, the county will ensure everyone gets two doses of the same vaccine.
"We're not going to be mix matching manufacturers," Monteiro said. "If you get a first dose of one manufactured vaccine, you're going to get the follow-up dose of that other manufactured vaccine."
The county will distribute this first round of vaccines.
But in the future, public health officials say hospitals will receive them directly.
Adventist Health Tulare is not one of the final destinations for the first round of vaccines, because the hospital is getting it through their system's distribution channels.
Kaweah Delta, Sierra View, nursing homes will be first to receive Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in Tulare County
Moderna, another vaccine manufacturer, has committed to ship 5,500 doses to Tulare County hospitals and nursing homes.
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