The first FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccinations in the Bay Area were administered at a San Francisco hospital Tuesday morning.

The historic moment at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital came as the region continued to grapple with a surge in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations.

San Francisco Department of Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax said five health care workers — two nurses, two doctors and a radiology technician — were vaccinated. Dr. Antonio Gomez, a critical care physician who has been treating COVID-19 patients, was the first.

“First of all, I want to say that the vaccine is safe,” Gomez said. “It should be taken by everyone who can get it. Today marks a milestone in our efforts to combat COVID-19 in the city, in the state, in the country and the world.”

San Francisco has received just over 12,500 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine, Colfax said. Those doses will be administered to front line workers at hospitals across the city over the coming days and weeks. Only five vaccinations were administered Tuesday because officials wanted to make sure the process and system ran smoothly.

“I think it’s important to emphasize that we’re starting at the acute care hospitals,” Colfax said. “This is going to be a long process. Vaccine supply is extremely limited.”

If Moderna’s vaccine is approved for emergency use, the city expects to receive a limited amount of doses next week, Colfax said. A second shipment of Pfizer’s vaccine is expected “soon,” he added.

Colfax, Gomez and Mayor London Breed emphasized that despite the vaccination milestone, people need to continue to wear masks, practice social distancing and avoid holiday gatherings.

“Let this not give us a license to change our behavior and think now that there’s a vaccine, we can do whatever we want to do,” Breed said. “The fact is, we are not out of the woods, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

The first COVID-19 vaccinations in the United States, including in Southern California, began Monday with health care workers rolling up their sleeves.

Vaccinations for the general public aren’t expected to be available until “many months from now,” according to Colfax.

“That is not a timeline from San Francisco,” he said. “That is a timeline from the federal and state government.”

While some have voiced trepidation and raised concerns about the speed at which Pfizer’s vaccine was approved, Gomez reiterated its safety and encouraged everyone to take it.

“All of the available evidence that we have about those who have taken this vaccine is that it’s very safe and that it’s highly effective,” he said. “I think that alone should really be very encouraging for everyone…I wouldn’t have administered on myself if I didn’t think it was safe.”

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By Arlene Huff

Arlene Huff is the founding member of Golden State Online. Before that She was a general assignment reporter. A native Californian, she graduated from the University of California with a degree in medical anthropology and global health. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

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