San Francisco is expected to receive 12,000 coronavirus vaccines next week, the city’s first allocation from the state and federal government, the city’s director of public health said Wednesday.
The city expects to begin receiving doses Tuesday of the vaccine developed by the pharmaceutical company Pfizer once it is approved for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, according to Dr. Grant Colfax.
Under the state’s vaccination prioritization plan, Colfax said the city would focus first on getting vaccines to employees and others at acute care facilities like hospitals and some nursing homes. Widespread vaccine access could be available by the spring.
Colfax warned that even with the first vaccine doses arriving this month, the city and the Bay Area at large are still at risk for the current wave of cases cresting across the state.
“The vaccine will not save us from this current national, state or local surge,” he said. “There is simply not enough time.”
With data reporting through Sunday, 17,384 cases have been confirmed in San Francisco, resulting in 164 deaths.
Test data has begun to trickle in showing skyrocketing cases due in part to people gathering with others for Thanksgiving, according to Colfax.
Since the week of Thanksgiving, the city’s average number of new cases per 100,000 residents per day has doubled, from roughly 15 to 30.
The city’s population of hospitalized coronavirus patients has also spiked, Colfax said, leading public health officials to predict that the city will run out of intensive care unit beds by Dec. 27 if the current rate of transmission remains constant.
Colfax said San Francisco’s current rate of spread, 1.5, means that each new coronavirus patient is infecting approximately one-and-a-half people.
Should that rate continue into 2021, Colfax said the city could see as many as 4,500 residents in need of a hospital bed and as many as 1,500 deaths on top of the 164 that have already been confirmed.
The city’s recent stay-at-home order, he said, could help lower that rate of spread to around one, which would “dramatically change” the virus’ effect on the city and the speed with which businesses can begin to reopen.
“This virus is raging through the city,” he said. “I know we are tired. I know some people have been able to get away, so far, with gathering to some extent. Now is not the time to do that.”
Colfax also pointed to the city’s previous ability to dramatically lower its case rate, which helped move the county into the least-restrictive tier of the state’s pandemic reopening system in late October.
“We know how to slow the spread of the virus. We’ve done it twice before, let’s do it a third time,” he said. “People don’t have to die.”