SF Prepares for Next Phase of COVID-19 Vaccinations

Man in wheelchair raises his arms as nurse in face shield stands by. San Francisco moves to increase the number of COVID-19 vaccinations as the city struggles with the final holiday surge of cases. Photo of Laguna Honda patient preparing to be vaccinated.

Courtesy of San Francisco Mayor’s Office

Jasper Harris, a resident of Laguna Honda hospital, was in the first group in San Francisco to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

As San Francisco health organizations move to increase the number of available COVID-19 vaccinations, the city is dealing with a holiday surge that came on top of a huge Thanksgiving increase. 

The second surge is not as big as the first, said Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health. “We saw about a 70% increase in cases in the weeks following” Thanksgiving, he said. “Now, we’ve seen about a 28% increase in our post-December holiday surge.” The result is that the city is identifying about 280 cases a day, similar to the post-Thanksgiving infection rate. 

Even if the city has avoided the disastrous post-holiday surge occurring elsewhere in the state, that is still a dangerous rate of increase, said Colfax.

“San Francisco thankfully still has enough ICU capacity to treat our patients,” he said, referring to vacant beds in hospital intensive care units. “The surrounding counties’ ICU-bed availability continues to shrink.”

The city is wrapping up its first phase of vaccinations — inoculating health care workers and staff and residents of assisted living facilities and similar long-term care settings — as the wait continues for more doses. 

When it comes to the vaccination campaign, there is no single source where city residents can learn when they will become eligible for a vaccine nor will there be one large venue for everyone to get vaccinated. 

When there is enough vaccine for wide-scale inoculations, Colfax said the health department will work with health care providers to set up multiple vaccination locations.

“We’re identifying civic facilities across the city, including specifically in neighborhoods with the most highly impacted and vulnerable communities,” Colfax said.

He said nearly 95 percent of San Franciscans will be getting vaccinated from their already existing medical providers and should be notified by them when they will be eligible for vaccination, based on their age, health and other factors such as being an essential worker. It’s unclear if those vaccinations will take place in doctor’s offices or in the yet-to-be-created neighborhood vaccination centers. 

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