Los Angeles,
07:15 AM

COVID-19 Update: Surge Preparedness, Vaccine Distribution

Cedars-Sinai Selected as a Vaccine Distribution Site for Los Angeles County

With the novel coronavirus spreading across the U.S. at a record pace, Cedars-Sinai has been seeing an increase in COVID-19 patients at its hospitals and through its network of physicians. But the health system's leaders say Cedars-Sinai is prepared.

"One of the benefits that we've had is some time to prepare since this pandemic began," said Jeff Smith, MD, JD, MMM, chief operating officer of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. "We now know much more about this virus, about how it spreads and how we can protect both patients and staff through the proper use of personal protective equipment."

That extra time also has allowed Cedars-Sinai to identify additional sources of PPE, including gloves, gowns, masks and respirators, and to build a healthy reserve.

"We are well prepared," Smith said. "We can keep our patients and our staff safe at this time."

Cedars-Sinai also continues to observe strict safety measures, including universal masking, health screenings for incoming workers and ensuring that staff in all patient care areas practice a universal standard of protection to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

"It's really important for the community and for our patients to know it is absolutely safe to come see your provider, whether that be in the hospital, in a provider's office, in an urgent care setting or emergency room," said infectious disease specialist Soniya Gandhi, MD, associate chief medical officer of Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital. "We don't want a second public health emergency because people are ignoring their healthcare needs."

As cases mount, many people are eagerly anticipating the first COVID-19 vaccine receiving emergency approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. When that vaccine is available for distribution, Cedars-Sinai will serve as a Los Angeles County distribution site.

One of the most advanced vaccine candidates requires ultracold storage at -80 degrees Celsius, which is much colder than a usual freezer.

"We are putting special processes in place to make sure that we can receive this vaccine and keep it at those ultracold temperatures and thaw it at just the right time and reconstitute it, so it can be administered to those who need it," Smith said.

Frontline healthcare workers are expected to be among the first groups to receive the vaccine. Public health authorities ultimately will decide how to prioritize those who are offered the medicine. While there is no timeline yet for when a vaccine will be available for distribution to the community, mass vaccination could eventually help protect the public from the worst effects of COVID-19.

"If enough people get vaccinated in the community, it creates something called 'herd immunity' and helps to protect everyone, including those who are the most vulnerable," Gandhi said.