One-third of Santa Clara Co. health care workers receive 1st dose of COVID vaccine

Santa Clara County Health Officials expect the COVID-19 vaccine distribution to ramp up after a slow start.

At a press briefing Friday, health officials released numbers that show a little more than 40% of its first doses of the vaccine have been administered.

"I think what we've seen so far is promising because our health care systems were able to bring up vaccination in the middle of responding to the biggest surge we've had and over a holiday," said Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County's Health Officer. "We are trying to get through phase-1A as fast as we can. All hands on deck effort."

According to health officials, more than 47,000 healthcare workers in Santa Clara County have received the first dose of the vaccine, with 90,000 more to go.        

Amy Luna works as a front desk clerk at a San Jose dental office.

She was one of the people getting the vaccination Friday at a recently-opened vaccination site, in hopes of protecting against the disease that has killed more than 800 people in Santa Clara County alone.

"It started from knowing someone who knew someone (who had COVID-19.) Now it's to the point where we know someone directly," said Luna.

About half of the estimated 6,000 skilled nursing facility workers in Santa Clara County have also received their first vaccine dose.

Three weeks have passed since the vaccine first arrived in the region.

With a 110,000 first doses to give out, health officials say challenges have included limited access to freezers, the complex priority system, and a reluctance among some to get the vaccine.

"It's expected to start slowly and we will absolutely ramp up. We've heard the federal government, under the new administration, is going to push out a lot more vaccine. The plan is to open many more mass vax sites," said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, Santa Clara County's COVID testing & vaccine officer. He also added he expects the initial reluctance to wear off, and ultimately lead to a boost in vaccination numbers.

The county says all healthcare workers can now be vaccinated and they're hopeful to start inoculating the next group by the end of the month, which includes people age 75 and older, teachers and farm workers. Dr. Fenstersheib says that timeline is dependent on future vaccine shipments.

Local health officials added the state's move this week to allow all healthcare workers to be vaccinated should also speed the process along.

"We are very hopeful that this marks a turning point in the pandemic," said Dr. Jennifer Tong, the Assoc. Chief Medical Officer of Santa Clara Valley Medical Center Hospitals.

Santa Clara County opened three vaccination sites this week, including one on Tully Road, with plans to open another large site next week.

One county officials said they are potentially looking at vaccinating up to 6,000 people a day by next week, with the ultimate goal to inoculate 1.5 million Santa Clara County residents to reach herd immunity locally.