(Photo via Jernej Ferman/Flickr)

Vaccines may be coming to Santa Clara County in the next few weeks and county leaders say they have a plan in place for when it arrives.

But the county’s responsibility is solely distribution and storage logistics — who gets the first batch of vaccines is set by the federal government, with additional state guidelines.

Since the initial amount will be limited, vaccines will be prioritized for health care workers, who are most at risk of contracting COVID-19.

After that, the priority will be for other frontline workers and communities who have disproportionately been impacted by the pandemic, Dr. Jennifer Tong, associate chief medical officer for Santa Clara Valley Medical Center said Tuesday.

“It will take months before everyone who wants a vaccine is able to get it,” Tong said.

The county submitted a detailed plan to the state on Monday outlining vaccine management, community engagement and distribution of COVID-19 and will soon be made public.

What is now confirmed is that the county will receive some doses directly from vaccine manufacturers at county-operated hospitals and some healthcare providers like Kaiser will receive vaccines from manufactures at the direction of the state.

However, is also still too early to tell how many vaccines the county will get for the first batch.

“The number of doses that we will receive will evolve quickly over time since there is more than one vaccine that is scheduled to be reviewed by the FDA over the next two weeks,” Tong said. “So, we do not yet have firm numbers on the exact numbers that we will receive.”

This will also impact the number of ultra-freezers the county will need to store the Pzifer vaccine.

“Literally before coming to the press conference, I was on the phone with a group that was telling me that freezers have arrived on a truck as of yesterday,” Tong said. “Multiple freezers have been installed in parts of the county of buildings that we own and operate, and there are additional freezers that are being purchased and installed by other private healthcare providers.”

The positive announcement of vaccine plans come at a grim time as Santa Clara County experiences significant spikes in COVID-19 cases and hospitalization rates.

The county tallied 801 new cases over the holiday weekend for a record high of 35,457 cases and 482 deaths.

Hospital ICU capacity is also stretched very thin, Tong said. Currently hospitals that serve South County and the Eastside, which are the hardest hit areas, have less than 5 beds in ICU and are at 93 percent capacity. The other hospitals are 84 percent full.

“Our hospitals throughout the county are working together, engaging in phone calls at least daily to redistribute patients as needed to ensure we are continuing to provide safe and high-quality care to all of those who seek it,” Tong said. “But these numbers are gravely concerning.”

The spike in cases prompted the county to revise health orders to mandate a 14-day quarantine for residents returning from traveling 150 miles or more and placing a temporary ban on contact sports.

County Counsel James Williams said quarantine violators are subject to fines as health orders are mandated by law. However, enforcement is still unclear.

New county directives can be viewed here: https://www.sccgov.org/sites/covid19/Pages/contact-tracing.aspx#guidance.