SAN DIEGO — Health authorities stepped up vaccinations across the region as deaths soared from COVID-19. By mid-January, San Diego County had logged more than 2,000 deaths since the pandemic began, while nearly 500 had died in Imperial County.
Auxiliary Bishop John Dolan was one of those who got the vaccine. He participated in a clinical trial of the Pfizer vaccine and was informed on Jan. 14 that he had received a placebo. As a result, he was able to receive the first shot of the vaccine that day and is scheduled to receive the second shot in early February.
County authorities are expanding the categories of who can receive the vaccine as supplies become available. They expected to begin offering the vaccine to those ages 65 and older in late January, as well as expand the job sectors that qualify. They urged residents to stay up to date on the availability of the vaccine.
The diocese is helping priests age 65 and older to get the vaccine when it’s available. Priest chaplains in local hospitals already have been receiving them, as have some priests associated with schools.
“These priests are in critical areas,” said Bishop Dolan, and face the greatest risk.
Catholic Church leaders at all levels are urging the faithful to get vaccinated. Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict received the first dose of the vaccine on Jan. 14 at the Vatican.
“I believe that ethically everyone should take the vaccine. It is not an option, it is an ethical choice because you are gambling with your health, with your life, but you are also gambling with the lives of others,” Pope Francis said in an interview on Italian television on Jan. 17.
In the United States, bishops at the national and state levels have issued statements encouraging vaccination. They maintain that the vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna:
- Are safe and effective;
- Are morally acceptable to take, after careful vetting of their clinical development;
- Advance the common good, as Catholic social teaching calls the faithful to do.
Imperial County, meanwhile, was the first to receive a refrigerated trailer on loan from the state to ease the coroner’s capacity to store bodies, according to Sheila Kruger, the owner of Frye Chapel & Mortuary in Brawley.
She told The Desert Review newspaper that about half of 187 cases her mortuary handled in December were COVID-related.
As of Jan. 7, some 1,780 people had received the first dose of a vaccine against COVID-19 at El Centro Regional Medical Center and other facilities countywide.
And a pilot program to treat high-risk patients with monoclonal antibody therapy is showing promising results. First administered at the medical center on Dec. 30, it’s being used to treat seniors with pre-existing health conditions in an effort to stave off the progression to severe illness.
The diocese presents information about COVID-19 at sdcatholic.org/covid19. The latest information from health authorities about the virus, including the availability of the vaccine, is available at sandiegocounty.gov/coronavirus/; and, in Imperial County, at icphd.org/.