Alta Bates Hospital workers in Berkeley will begin receiving COVID-19 vaccine Saturday

Update, 4:44 p.m.: Alta Bates received the shipment of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines Friday and will begin vaccinating its workers on Saturday, Sutter spokesperson Monique Binkley Smith confirmed.

Original story: Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley will receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the week, a few days after several Bay Area hospitals started inoculating essential workers.

The vaccine was approved but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Dec. 11 and it almost immediately shipments began going out to regions across the country.

Ryan Stice, vice president of pharmacy at Sutter Health, which owns Alta Bates, said during a news conference on Monday that hospitals would be ready to begin administering the vaccine “within hours” of receiving the shipment. There is a two-to-three day variance expected between each health department’s shipment, he added.

Alta Bates is due to receive 975 doses of the vaccine through the Berkeley Health Department, but hadn’t gotten its batch as of Thursday, according to Sutter. The vaccine is arriving according to schedule and no delays have been reported, according to city spokesperson Matthai Chakko.

“Making this happen is a logistical feat, and we are very excited for these vaccinations to begin,” Chakko said, emphasizing the important of masking, social distancing and taking COVID-19 precautions in the months to come. “It’s a sign of hope in a very grim time.”

Vaccinations have been reported in Santa Clara, Contra Costa, San Francisco and many nearby counties, and Alameda County (which is separate from the Berkeley Health Department) has said it expects to receive the vaccine on Friday.

Local healthcare workers receiving the vaccine at Sutter hospitals were notified two to three weeks ago, and they’re “anxiously awaiting the vaccine,” Stice said. The initial approach was state-based, but now it’s shifted to a county and city health department system. Berkeley is among 24 jurisdictions receiving the initial shipment of vaccines.

“At the end of the day, when we look back in a month, I’m not sure it’s gonna matter than much whether the vaccine arrived on the 12th, the 13th or the 14th,” Stice said. “I think what’s really important is that we’re gonna have an enormous portion of our staff protected from exposure to the virus.”