There’s been a lot of confusion about COVID-19 and the distribution of the vaccine. That's because it’s complicated. There’s confusion over how and when the vaccine will be distributed and confusion over a batch that caused some allergic reactions. KAZU’s Erika Mahoney has been following the developments.
Doug McKnight (DM): Erika, where are we on vaccinations in Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties?
Erika Mahoney (EM): Both counties are still in the process of vaccinating healthcare workers and residents of skilled nursing facilities. That’s the very first phase in the state’s vaccine rollout plan. The county health departments have a very limited supply of the vaccine. They get shipments from the state on a weekly basis and the amount varies.
DM: So that’s the first phase. What’s the plan going forward?
EM: When you will get vaccinated depends on a number of factors, your job, your age, where you live.The next phase in the state’s multi-phased vaccine rollout plan includes people 65 and older and essential workers like teachers and farmworkers. Local county health officials are looking forward to that next step, but they don’t have enough supply to move into that phase just yet.
The county health departments must follow the state’s vaccine rollout plan. That’s not the case for all distributors. Healthcare systems that span multiple counties operate under different rules. So in Santa Cruz County, Dignity Health Medical Group-Dominican is beginning to vaccinate existing medical group patients 75 and older and Kaiser is beginning to reach out to their patients 75 and up. This is according to their websites. But keep in mind, this information does change quickly. It’s recommended patients contact their primary care doctors for the most relevant information.
DM: So that answers why there are discrepancies for who’s getting the vaccine in that age category. It seems like mass vaccination centers would really help.
EM: That’s something both counties are working on. In fact, on Wednesday, Santa Cruz County announced a partnership with Safeway. Safeway will help with upcoming mass vaccination clinics, beginning with health care workers. Location is to be announced.
In the end, most people will end up getting a shot from their primary care doctor or, say, the clinic they go to when they’re sick.
DM: Are there any other reasons why vaccine distribution is so slow right now?
EM: Yes. At the beginning of this week, state health officials recommended distributors put a certain batch of the Moderna vaccine on hold. This came after a clinic in San Diego saw a handful of severe allergic reactions. But late Wednesday, state health officials said distributors can immediately start using that batch again. It’s good news for Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties who did have supply from that Moderna batch; specifically over 6,000 doses in Monterey County and over 5,000 doses in Santa Cruz County. Nevertheless, that did slow things down for a few days.
DM: So once you’re able to finally get the vaccine, can life go back to normal?
EM: Not exactly. First, you need to have both doses before you’re protected at 95% effectiveness. Even then, health officials say we must continue wearing masks, staying 6 feet apart, washing our hands… all of the things we’ve gotten used to. That’s because the vaccine prevents you from becoming severely sick with COVID-19, but scientists don’t know yet whether it completely prevents you from getting it or spreading it to others.
DM: Despite these challenges, people seem hopeful that vaccinations will speed up because the new Biden Administration has made a big promise.
EM: You’re right. President Biden has a goal to do 100 million vaccinations in 100 days. He wants to get more people vaccinated for free, open more vaccination sites and increase the overall supply.
Until then, local health officials are asking everyone to do their part; if all you can do is stay home, do that. And, to be patient for your turn to get the vaccine.
DM: Let’s hope that’s sooner than later. Thank you Erika. This is KAZU News.
An earlier version of this story said healthcare systems that span multiple counties were beginning to vaccinate their patients 65 and up. In Santa Cruz County, due to limited supplies, those systems are just beginning 75 and up at this time or just beginning to reach out to them.