Coronavirus Vaccine Sits Unused As CoCo Residents Die Of COVID-19

Bea Karnes

EL CERRITO, CA —The final coronavirus tallies for December are still coming in as test results are pending for the last three days of the month, but it's safe to declare that the numbers are grim. A total of 67 people died throughout Contra Costa County, while 16,845 people had newly confirmed cases of coronavirus infections, according to statistics updated by Contra Costa County on Tuesday.

A breakdown of stats for El Cerrito in December is not available, but the total for the pandemic since March 2020 is 4 deaths and 412 infections. The county total since the start of the pandemic is 43,223 cases and 348 deaths.

As bad as things are here, the death toll is so out-of-control in Southern California that mortuaries cannot keep pace, forcing some to rent extra refrigeration units to store bodies.

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As the human tragedy continues to unfold, Gov. Gavin Newsom acknowledged on Monday that out of the nearly 1.3 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines already in the state, just 454,306 had been administered through Sunday. That means roughly two-thirds of the vaccine is sitting unused in freezers.

California has received both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

Newsom said officials are working to accelerate the administration of COVID-19 vaccines across the state, including expanding the number of distribution sites and the types of people who can give the shots.

"We are working aggressively to accelerate our pace," Newsom said. "We're going to start seeing more rapid distribution of vaccines, I can assure you of that. That said, it's gone too slowly, I know, for many of us. All of us, I think, we want to see 100 percent of what's received immediately administered in people's arms.

"So that's a challenge, a challenge across this country. It's a challenge for that matter around the world, but that's not an excuse."

Newsom said the state is working to increase the number of sites where shots can be administered and the people who can give the shots, including dentists, pharmacy technicians, and members of the National Guard.

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The state's vaccine task force is still working on setting priorities of who will be first in line during upcoming phases of the distribution system. The state is still in the first phase of distribution, covering healthcare and frontline workers.

"We've got work to do on this," he said. "We want to see things accelerate and we want to see things go much faster."

He added that federal health officials believe the current COVID-19 vaccines will protect against the new strain of the virus, which was first detected in Great Britain but has also been found in Southern California and in a growing number of states.

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The latest statewide statistics from the California COVID-19 dashboard, posted Tuesday, show there have been 27,003 deaths including 368 reported on Monday; and 2,452,334 laboratory-confirmed cases including 31,440 new cases on Monday. California's death toll is the third highest in the nation, behind New York with 38,742 and Texas with 28,786.

Nationwide, Johns Hopkins University reports that 356,540 Americans have died of complications from COVID-19, while 21,007,694 people have been diagnosed with coronavirus.

Across the globe, coronavirus has killed at least 1,865,267 people and sickened another 86,230,870. Those numbers are believed to be grossly understated as some nations suppress numbers or lack the infrastructure to generate stringent statistics.

— Patch editor Bea Karnes and City News Service contributed to this story

This article originally appeared on the El Cerrito Patch