MADERA COUNTY, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) — Valley Children’s Hospital said Wednesday it has been chosen by state health officials to be the region’s home for the first stage distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine once it receives federal approval.
Named a regional “pre-positioning” vaccine distribution site by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), the Madera County hospital will be expected to receive, store and distribute the vaccine to other healthcare providers and organizations across the Valley in accordance with state guidelines, said Todd Suntrapak, President & CEO of Valley Children’s Healthcare.
Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine, which is a two-dose vaccination, is expected to be the first to receive U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval and requires storage at ultra-low temperatures.
Valley Children’s said it has adequate freezer capacity to store up to several hundred thousand doses as needed.
The hospital is also waiting for more information from CDPH, including the expected delivery date and guidance for distribution.
On Tuesday, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, an influential government advisory panel, says health care workers and nursing home residents should be at the front of the line when the first coronavirus vaccine shots become available.
The two priority groups encompass around 24 million Americans out of a U.S. population of about 330 million.
Current estimates project that no more than 20 million doses of each vaccine will be available by the end of 2020. And each product requires two doses.
The advisory panel’s action merely designated who should get shots first if a safe and effective vaccine becomes available. The panel did not endorse any particular vaccine. Panel members are waiting to hear the FDA’s evaluation and to see more safety and efficacy data before endorsing any particular product.
Experts say the vaccine will probably not become widely available in the U.S. until the spring.
The panel of outside scientific experts, created in 1964, makes recommendations to the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who almost always approves them. It normally has 15 voting members, but one seat is vacant.
The recommendations are not binding, but for decades they have been widely heeded by doctors, and they have determined the scope and funding of U.S. vaccination programs.
It will be up to state authorities whether to follow the guidance. It will also be left to them to make further, more detailed decisions if necessary — for example, whether to put emergency room doctors and nurses ahead of other health care workers if vaccine supplies are low.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.