Santa Clara Co. long-term care facility staffers prioritized for COVID-19 vaccine due to outbreaks

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- With the arrival of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, work is underway across the country to deliver it to the populations who need it most. In Santa Clara County, the public health department says that staff members in long-term care facilities will get first priority.

"The thing that has been the most stressful and the most distressing to me as a daughter has been the isolation of my elderly father," said San Jose resident Kelly Snider, whose father lives in a senior care home and interacts with staff on a daily basis. "I think that the workers in these facilities are heroes."

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There are 6,000 people who work in long-term care facilities in Santa Clara County.

The county will begin inoculating those frontline workers who opt-in, ahead of hospitals that are expected to receive their vaccine allocation directly from Pfizer at the end of the week. Residents in these facilities will be offered the vaccine later in the month through a separate state program.

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"We're trying to be equitable in our distribution of this vaccine," says Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, Stanford infectious disease expert, who stressed that communities are making tough decisions on distribution that are specific to their region. "It's based on the diversity of our populations, the socioeconomic status of our populations, to make sure that every single person has access to this vaccine if they want it."

County officials are investigating two significant COVID-19 outbreaks at facilities in San Jose, including Skyline Healthcare Center, which has reported 212 total positive cases since the start of the pandemic. Amberwood Gardens has 195 confirmed cases, which are among the numbers that contributed to the county's decision to prioritize this sector in the first phase of distribution.

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Snider added, "I'm so thankful we have this vaccine coming and I hope that it means that I can visit my dad again soon, and see him, and give him a hug."

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