Distribution of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine begins at UC medical centers

Photo of Regents Meeting
Joshua Jordan/File
The UC system’s policy for vaccine distribution to its health care workers was discussed at a virtual UC Board of Regents meeting Tuesday. The meeting covered that medical centers at UC Davis, UC Irvine, UCLA, UC San Diego and UCSF planned to start vaccine distribution Tuesday afternoon.

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Amid another national COVID-19 surge, the arrival of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine at UC medical centers signals hope for “the beginning of the end,” said Executive Vice President of UC Health Carrie Byington at a virtual UC Board of Regents meeting Tuesday.

At the UC Board of Regents Health Services Committee meeting, the regents discussed the UC system’s policy for vaccine distribution to its health care workers. According to Byington, the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, chaired by UC Berkeley School of Public Health professor Arthur Reingold, met Sunday to discuss the safety and efficacy of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine and voted unanimously to move the vaccine forward.

“We have taken a slightly different tactic for the COVID-19 vaccine, because, unlike influenza which has 50 years of safety data, this is a very new vaccine,” Byington said at the meeting. “We have just two months of safety data.”

Because of the lack of individuals in trials, such as pregnant women and those who are immunocompromised, Byington said health care workers will be required to undergo vaccine education before they decide whether or not to receive it.

During the meeting, Byington said medical centers at UC Davis, UC Irvine, UCLA, UC San Diego and UCSF planned to start vaccine distribution Tuesday afternoon.

Over the next two to three weeks, Byington expects that all workers considered to be in the “Phase 1a” group — which is about 58,000 people — can be vaccinated.

“We’re looking at July of 2021 as the first days of nearing herd immunity and significant enough immunity to turn the trajectory of the pandemic,” Byington said at the meeting. “For those of us in infectious diseases, those of us who are scientists, it is a day of awe.”

During the meeting, the regents also covered the “3 Wishes Program” launched at the UCLA Medical Intensive Care Unit in December 2017.

The project aims to fulfill wishes for families and patients who are in their final hours in order to bring peace and ease the grieving process, according to UCLA Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine assistant professor Thanh Neville.

“This is where we learn what the patients looked like before they were sick,” Neville said at the meeting. “What were their hobbies? What kind of music do they listen to? Do they like to travel? What are their favorite foods?”

The program has had to make some adaptations during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as moving to online private Zoom concerts and implementing a visitation policy, according to Neville. Some wishes included making a sculpture of a couple holding hands for the last time, fingerprint keepsakes or simply a bowl of Asian rice porridge.

Contact Catherine Hsu at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @catherinehsuDC.