Tech gets a COVID-19 vaccination
Vic Hsieh, an emergency department technician, gets vaccinated on Dec. 19 at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center. Photo: ABSMC

Doctors, nurses and technicians who work in the Emergency Department at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley were among the first medical professionals in the city to get vaccinated against COVID-19 on Saturday.

Alameda County and Berkeley got the Pfizer vaccine on Friday, and the medical center started vaccinating a few medical professionals on Saturday with plans to ramp up clinics at all three ABSMC campuses starting Monday. That’s Alta Bates, the Herrick campus and the Summit Medical Center in Oakland, according to an email sent to staff by Dr. Ursula Boynton, the chief medical executive of ABSMC, which was provided to Berkeleyside.

The vaccine will be administered 12 hours a day at Summit and Alta Bates and eight hours a day at Herrick, she wrote. Sutter Health owns ABSMC.

Berkeley has been allocated 945 doses of the Pfizer vaccine so far. However, more doses are expected to be available soon. On Friday, the FDA approved the Moderna vaccine as well and experts expect shipments of that vaccine to start being sent out next week.

To be effective, the vaccine must be given twice. Those using the Pfizer vaccine need a second dose three weeks after the first dose. Those getting the Moderna vaccine get their second dose a month later.

nurse gets COVID-19 vaccine
Allison Chan, a registered nurse in the Alta Bates Emergency Department, gets a COVID -19 vaccine shot on Dec. 19, 2020. Photo: ABSMC

The first tier of medical professionals to get the vaccine are those who work in the emergency department, which is often where COVID-19 patients first make contact with the hospital. Others in that tier include hospitalists, intensivists, neonatologists, anesthesiologists, obstetricians, psychiatrists and medicine sub-specialists, according to Boynton’s email.

The next tier of professionals to get vaccinated will be surgeons, physiatrists, radiologists, radiation oncologists and pediatricians. The third tier will include the remaining staff at ABSMC, said Boynton.

“We expect to get through the first dose for all tier levels rapidly, within 3 weeks,” Boynton wrote.

Getting vaccinated is not mandatory, she said in the email, but highly recommended.

After frontline health workers are vaccinated, the next round of vaccine will go to residents and staff at the city’s six skilled nursing facilities, according to Matthai Chakko, the city spokesman. That is expected to happen by the end of December.

The general public is not expected to get access to the vaccine for several more months.

Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, published in November...