If you’re like most people in the South Bay, you’re probably
keeping close track of the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccine rollout. And
you’re probably also wondering what impact new COVID-19 treatments,
emerging variants, and the vaccine will have on the pandemic.
According to David Rand, MD, infectious disease specialist and Co-medical
Director of Infection Control at Torrance Memorial Medical Center, there
is some good news: The number of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 at
Torrance Memorial in mid-February 2021 has declined after a surge that
lasted from mid-November 2020 to mid-January 2021.
“We went from having a high of 240 people hospitalized with COVID-19
in mid-January to about 50 people in the hospital in mid-February,”
said Dr. Rand.
And progress has been made on the vaccine front as well.
“As of March 5, 2021, Torrance Memorial Medical Center has administered
more than 15,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, mostly to the hospital’s
healthcare workers and patients 65 and older,” said Tammy Ginder,
PharmD, Assistant Director of Pharmacy Services at Torrance Memorial Medical
Center, who is one of the coordinators of the hospital’s COVID-19
Meanwhile, here’s what South Bay residents need to know about the
status of COVID-19, the vaccine and what it means for the future.
Why are COVID-19 hospitalizations on a steady decline?
Dr. Rand said COVID-19 hospitalizations might be trending downward due
to several factors. First, many people in the South Bay have already had
COVID-19, which could mean fewer people are now getting sick.
“The second factor, I’m hoping, is that more people are following
public health guidelines — wearing masks, social distancing and
washing hands,” said Dr. Rand. “However, I think it’s
too early for the vaccine to be playing a role in the decreased hospitalizations
we are seeing because not enough people have been vaccinated yet.”
What new treatments are available for COVID-19?
Dr. Rand said that although some new treatments are now available for COVID-19,
no single treatment modality can provide a complete cure.
“We are using a combination of steroids and remdesivir as our initial
therapy,” said Dr. Rand. “Also, proning — or having
a patient lay on their belly when they are having trouble breathing —
has helped some patients by recruiting other parts of the lungs to improve
blood oxygen levels.”
Immune modulating medications such as Tocilizumab and convalescent plasma
therapy are also available to patients at Torrance Memorial.
“The goal of immune-modifying medications is to control the body’s
inflammatory response,” said Dr. Rand.
Who is eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine?
As of February 27, 2021, healthcare workers and people age 65 and older
can receive the COVID-19 vaccine in California.
“After these groups receive their vaccines, eligibility will expand
to education and childcare workers, food and agriculture workers and emergency
services personnel,” said Dr. Ginder.
How can residents schedule a vaccination appointment?
The best way to schedule a vaccination appointment is to visit the California
Department of Health’s My Turn website at myturn.ca.gov.
“The site allows residents to check their eligibility for the COVID-19
vaccine. If eligible, residents can see vaccination locations in their
area and schedule appointments,” said Dr. Ginder. “If no vaccination
appointments are available or a resident is not yet eligible, they can
sign up for notifications telling them when it is their turn and when
appointments are available.”
Where should people get vaccinated?
Community vaccination clinics are the best option for receiving a vaccine.
The My Turn website will connect patients with vaccination clinics in
their area. Torrance Memorial is also holding limited vaccine clinics
for healthcare workers and patients age 65 and over.
“The vaccine is key to stopping the spread of COVID-19,” said
Dr. Rand. “We need to get to a 70 percent vaccination rate to achieve
herd immunity, so I would urge people not to wait to receive the vaccine
at a hospital, but get it anywhere they can as soon as they are eligible.”
What are some common vaccine side effects?
Common side effects of the vaccine include soreness at the injection site
and mild symptoms such as low-grade fever, headache and fatigue —
which are consistent with the vaccine’s initial side effect profile.
Is the vaccine effective for COVID-19 variants?
Although COVID-19 variants are certainly a concern, early evidence suggests
the current COVID-19 vaccines will provide enough protection to significantly
lower the risk of infection and severe complications associated with current
“Research shows the Pfizer mRNA vaccine has an approximately 90 percent
efficacy rate against current COVID variants,” said Dr. Ginder.
“The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is not an mRNA vaccine
and just received Emergency Use Authorization soon, has a 78 percent variant
“Due to the vaccine’s mRNA technology, it can be easily modulated
for new variants,” said Dr. Rand. “That means it would be
possible to get a booster vaccine out to the public relatively quickly.”
How long does it take for the vaccine to reach maximum efficacy?
Although vaccine recipients may receive some protection after receiving
the first shot, the vaccine doesn’t reach maximum efficacy until
a few weeks after the second shot is administered.
The Pfizer vaccine requires a second shot to be administered approximately
three weeks after the first shot. The Pfizer vaccine is 95 percent effective
at preventing symptomatic infections a week after the second shot.
The Moderna vaccine requires a second shot approximately four weeks after
the first shot. The shot is 94 percent effective at preventing symptomatic
infections about two weeks after receiving the second shot.
“In more good news, real-world research has shown the Pfizer-BioNTech
COVID-19 vaccine reduces symptomatic coronavirus infections by more than
90 percent in people who received both doses,” said Dr. Ginder.
“This is consistent with data from the vaccine trial.”
What do I need to know after I get vaccinated?
Continue to do your part until we reach herd immunity by following public
health guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control:
- wear a mask
- practice social distancing
- wash hands