Long Beach to receive 3,900 COVID-19 vaccine doses by end of month

Long Beach is expected to receive 3,900 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the month that will first be distributed to health care workers followed by staff and residents in skilled nursing facilities.

As the nation prepares for mass vaccine distribution, Long Beach in a news conference on Thursday announced its own distribution plan that will be managed by its health department.

Mayor Robert Garcia said the city has a “strong, responsible and equity-based plan” that will bring hope in the new year.

“The COVID crisis remains the single biggest threat to lives in our city,” he said. “What brings us hope is that we know in 2021 we are going to defeat COVID-19.”

Health officials expect the Pfizer vaccine to be shipped by Dec. 14. The city is then expected to get 11,600 doses of a Moderna vaccine in early January. Garcia said the city has the equipment to store the doses in their required extreme cold temperatures.

The vaccines will be distributed in phases. Under the first phase, health care workers at local hospitals including Long Beach Memorial and St. Mary Medical Center will be vaccinated first, followed by residents and staff at acute care and nursing facilities, emergency medical technicians and paramedics.

The next step would include essential workers in public health, and those in dentist and doctors offices and specialty clinics.

Doses would then go to non-health care essential workers including teachers, grocery store and public transit workers, and those in public safety. Seniors over 65 who are at high risk would be next to receive the vaccine.

If all goes according to plan, the vaccines will likely be available to the general public by late spring, Garcia said.

The Pfizer vaccine requires two doses distributed 21 days apart, while Moderna’s vaccine is 28 days apart.

Once the vaccines become more widely available, the city will begin to distribute doses through its current COVID-19 drive-up testing centers, where residents will eventually be able to get tested and vaccinated.

While the vaccine brings hope, officials warned of the continued surge in cases, noting that the capacity for intensive care unit beds in Southern California on Thursday dropped to 7.7%.

The city on Wednesday reported 422 new COVID cases, while the testing positivity rate climbed to 9.9%, up from 3.6% since Nov. 1.

“We are ready for the vaccine and we have the infrastructure and staff in place,” Garcias said. “But that doesn’t mean we can stop wearing face masks.”

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Kelly Puente is an award-winning general assignment and special projects reporter at the Long Beach Post. She has worked as a journalist in Long Beach since 2006, covering everything from education and crime to courts and breaking news. Kelly previously worked at the Long Beach Press-Telegram and the Orange County Register before joining the Post in 2018. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration at Cal State Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected].