San Joaquin County is moving toward completion of the first phase of the statewide rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, but delays in shipment of the vaccines from the state to counties mean it could take a few more weeks to get into the next phase of vaccinations.
San Joaquin County Public Health Officer Maggie Park told the county board of supervisors on Tuesday that so far the county health department has reached out to 36,000 individuals in San Joaquin County within Phase 1A of the state’s vaccination priority system, including hospital staff, medical first responders, long-term care workers and residents and others. She said the county also has vaccinated many county residents age 65 and older in the first phase.
As of last Friday the county had vaccinated about 40% of those individuals, Park said. The county health department received more than 34,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, including 14,625 of the Pfizer vaccine and 19,400 of the Moderna vaccine. Of those, 16,909 doses were administered, including some doctors and nurses already getting their second dose, which is necessary to establish immunity to the coronavirus.
Phase 1B will include more people age 65 or older and people who work in emergency services, child care, education and food and agriculture. Park said the vaccine will likely be available to those groups in early February, but only about 3,000 more doses are expected to arrive from the state in the next week.
“It’s very difficult to be precise on this and make any commitments because the influx of vaccine per-week from the state is so questionable, and we have no idea until the week before how many we’re getting from the state,” she said. “It has become somewhat of a trickle lately. We’re not getting large amounts of vaccine, yet we’re being asked to vaccinate more and more groups as the state has made more announcements and added people.”
Park said that people who want the vaccine should first go through their primary care providers, or the main health care systems in the county, such as Sutter Health, Kaiser Permanente, Dignity Health and Adventist Health.
“That is the message. You need to go to your Sutters, your Kaisers, your health care provider, who should have that vaccine for you, and that’s how you get vaccinated. But we know that in reality there are people out there who don’t have a provider who can offer the vaccine. Maybe they go to a small primary care provider, somebody who doesn’t have the ability to do it,” she said.
Park noted that her office, with the help of Bayesiant, a data-gathering specialist, has mapped out the demographics of the county in terms of age to determine the best locations for pop-up and mobile van vaccination clinics that can serve the 65-and-older population.
“We’re going to be looking at each census tract and asking, is there a community senior center in one of these areas where we can set up a vaccine clinic? Do we want to engage at a high school?” Park said. “That’s how we’re going to be looking at this and moving forward.”
This past weekend one such clinic was set up at the Robert J. Cabral Agricultural Center on Arch Airport Road, where about 2,500 people got the shot, but supervisors noted that some people ended up waiting in line for up to 5 hours.
San Joaquin County Office of Emergency Services spokeswoman Tiffany Heyer said the clinic was planned as an invitation-only clinic for home health care workers, but when people found out that a vaccination clinic was active in Stockton they drove over to wait in line.
“It was only for the Phase 1A, but word got out and it was a much larger group of people that showed up the second day, so the decision was made to include the 65 and older because we had the ability to provide vaccines that day,” Heyer said.
“Clearly our demand is exceeding our allocation, and we’re really hoping they’re drastically increasing here in the near future so we can move into that next phase of that 65 and older who not only need it but really want it. It’s a balancing act at this time.”
She added that the hospitals face the same delays as the county.
“We know that supplies for them are also just as limited, however they are able to move — because they’re getting direct allocations from the state — at a different pace than we may be able to,” Heyer said. “Because they’re network providers they have different ways of being able to set up appointments.”
“We’re trying to follow up with anyone who may not be part of those networks, or may not even have primary care physicians in general.”
Greg Diederich, director of health care services for San Joaquin County, said that the limiting factors at this point include the rate at which the state approves health care providers to administer the vaccine, and then provide additional doses of the vaccine.
“We need the state to move and get rid of this bureaucracy,” Diederich said. “The back and forth and just the micromanaging. Days, weeks to get somebody approved that is already a certified licensed health care provider.”
Diederich noted that once the vaccines are available the county health department needs to be more efficient in getting it to the people who are next in line.
“This weekend was a good learning exercise of how we can successfully do a mass vaccination event,” he told the board. “Besides the other people coming that weren’t the target, I think it was successful as a proof of a concept that we can do it successfully. Indeed, we need to limit and target those, but the challenge is we don’t have enough vaccine.”
Park said she also was frustrated with the events of the past weekend.
“Moving forward my plan is, I would only like to release vaccine to mass vaccine events when there is a registration system in place,” she said. “I don’t want 75-year-olds, 80-year-olds sitting in a car for hours or standing outside, camping outside on camp chairs, when there could be an appointment, you show up to your appointment and you get your vaccine and you go. We’re definitely looking into ways we can organize this better.”
Board chairman Tom Patti asked how many people will be in Phase 1B. Park said the county has about 100,000 people age 65 and up, and about 40,000 people age 75 and up. Phase 1B will also include about 10,000 people in law enforcement, about 20,000 educators and about 10,000 farmworkers.
The county has information on COVID-19 testing and vaccinations at its Office of Emergency Services website. It includes and opt-in tool for notifications of when vaccinations become available, and who they will be available for, in different parts of the county. The OES website, www.sjready.org/events/covid19, includes information on the opt-in tool, where people can text
“covidsj” to 888777 to receive alerts.
Sutter Health, which operates Sutter Tracy Community Hospital, has information on vaccinations at www.sutterhealth.org/for-patients/health-alerts/covid-19-vaccine.
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