With limited COVID-19 vaccines in Siskiyou County, who gets them first?

Skye Kinkade Matt Brannon
Mount Shasta Herald
The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine arrives at Mercy Medical Center in Redding. Siskiyou County will receive their doses from this allotment.

Amid Siskiyou County’s worst month for COVID-19 cases and deaths, 385 Pfizer vaccine doses are expected to be delivered in Siskiyou County next week.

Health care workers will be the first to take the vaccine in Siskiyou County at both Fairchild Medical Center in Yreka and Mercy Medical Center Mt. Shasta, said Siskiyou County Public Health spokesperson Angelica Cook.

Fairchild is expecting to receive more than 200 of those doses, said the hospital’s Assistant Administrator Mike Madden, and they hope to administer the first vaccines on Monday.

A vial of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine at Mercy Medical Center in Redding, which is storing Siskiyou County's doses until they can be delivered next week.

In preparation for the vaccine’s arrival, Fairchild purchased and installed a special ultra-low temperature freezer unit, capable of keeping the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the necessary temperature to keep the doses viable, Madden said.

Mercy Mt. Shasta also purchased a specialized freezer for storage, said the hosptial’s spokesperson Allison Hendrickson.

Who will get the first doses in Siskiyou County?

The initial vaccine supply is enough for less than 1% of Siskiyou County’s population, and they’re being prioritized to frontline healthcare workers who are at most risk of exposure to COVID-19, Cook said.

At Fairchild, which employs about 500 people, priority will be given to staff who provide hands-on care at the hospital, Fairchild Medical Clinic and Scott Valley Medical Center. 

Fairchild Medical Center in Yreka

“As with the annual flu vaccine, we anticipate a high percentage of our team members will eventually receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” said Registered Nurse Peggy Amaral, Fairchild’s Medical Center Employee Health Manager.

Mercy will be using a tiered-point system, as suggested by the California Department of Public Health, to decide which workers to inoculate first, said Hendrickson.

Individuals get points based on where they work, race, ethnicity and the the type of work that they do, according to the system.

People with the most points will be in tier four – typically, that's those taking care of COVID-19 patients.

Mercy Medical Center Mt. Shasta's new emergency department was officially opened on Friday, Sept. 18 with a blessing ceremony. The project, which has been in progress for two years, added 2,900 square feet of space to the old department, which was built in the late 1970s.

Two shots necessary; 95% effective

The Pfizer vaccine requires recipients to receive a two-dose regimen, 21 days apart. In the trial stage, the vaccine was found to be 95% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19, according to a Pfizer press release.

It is unknown how and the general public can receive the vaccine, said Cook.

“The state will provide a COVID-19 vaccine to everyone in California who needs and requests vaccination as supplies are available,” said Cook, however this may not happen for several months. 

“So in the meantime it is important to continue to use preventative measures to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Cook added.

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COVID-19 in Siskiyou County

As of Friday afternoon, Siskiyou County Public Health reported 1,001 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the county, 88 of which were active. Nine people were hospitalized and there have been eight deaths reported due to the coronavirus.

More than a quarter of the county's total cases since the pandemic hit in March were reported over the month of December – 264 cases.

Skye Kinkade is the editor of the Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers and the Siskiyou Daily News. She is a fourth generation Siskiyou County resident and has lived in Mount Shasta and Weed her entire life.