Good news arrived Wednesday, Dec. 16, on a loading dock at San Mateo Medical Center: Two ultra-cold freezers, wrapped in green like holiday presents.

The freezers will store COVID-19 vaccine before it gets into the arms of health care workers on the front lines of the pandemic.

Hope for an end to the pandemic: Deep-cold freezer arrives at San Mateo Medical Center. Thanks Department of Public Works for doing the heavy lifting.
Hope for an end to the pandemic: Deep-cold freezer arrives at San Mateo Medical Center. Thanks Department of Public Works for doing the heavy lifting.
Dr. Anand Chabra, COVID-19 Mass Vaccination Section chief, discusses the details of freezers and the vaccine rollout with members of the local press.
Carole Groom, a member of the Board of Supervisors, looks forward to seeing health care workers get vaccinated.
The two upright freezers, capable of maintaining -20 C to -86 C temperatures and representing 55 cubic feet of storage, will supplement existing ultra-cold storage.

The Pfizer vaccine requires ultra-cold storage. The new freezers can store vaccine at the required minus 70 degrees Celsius, colder than winter at the South Pole. 

Each new 750-pound freezer, along with existing ultra-cold storage, will serve as a depot for a share of the initial 5,850 doses of the Pfizer vaccine allocated to San Mateo County medical facilities.

Hospitals across the county are now receiving doses of the vaccine, and San Mateo County Health expects the county will receive thousands more of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines combined by the end of the month. Learn about County Health's Vaccination Program and the priorities for vaccination.

Here's the vaccine roll-out plan for San Mateo County:

► Mills-Peninsula Medical Center, Sequoia Hospital, Kaiser in Redwood City, and Kaiser in South San Francisco will receive their distribution of one box (975 doses) directly from the state in the next few days.

► The one-box allotments for San Mateo Medical Center and Seton Medical Center have arrived at San Mateo Medical Center. Each facility will manage its vaccination operation.

► The health care partners that receive the initial doses will decide whether to disseminate all of their limited first allotments or to hold some in reserve for the second doses that need to follow within 21 or 28 days.

► Future allocations of vaccine, starting with the next batch (Moderna), will go directly to multi-county entities like Kaiser, Sutter, and Dignity from the California Department of Public Health. They will receive the vaccine directly from the state’s allotment.

► Congregate care facilities are part of the Centers for Disease Control's Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program

► Local Walgreens and CVS pharmacies will work directly with long-term care facilities to administer vaccines, which are expected to begin at the end of the month. County Health has worked to ensure that all local congregate care facilities have signed up for the program and will monitor their progress and provide support if needed

► County Health will vaccinate medical first responders (paramedics and EMTs), about 1,200, and will support the vaccination of staff at congregate care facilities if needed. When organizations cannot vaccinate their staff or residents directly, a county partner will do so.

► County Health estimates 24,000 of the total 38,000 health care workers (this includes direct clinical care, those who handle cleaning, etc.) in San Mateo County will receive their first (of two) doses of vaccine from these initial shipments. Future shipments are already in process and will provide the second doses for these critical groups.

► San Mateo Medical Center expects to begin vaccinating front-line staff as soon as Friday, Dec. 18.