SALINAS – The Monterey County Board of Supervisors sent Governor Newsom a letter about the equitable supply and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to keep county residents safe, “especially our farmworker community which has been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic” as clinics begin registration for Phase 1b Tier 1 – people 75 years and older.
So far Monterey County has requested 49,224 doses from the state. Its current allotment is 43,324 doses of which it has received 39,075 with another expected shipment coming this week, according to Karen Smith, Monterey County Health Department spokeswoman.
“We are at the end of Phase 1a,” said Smith. “Second doses are going on right now.”
Smith said that Monterey County residents 75 years old and older can now go to the Health Department’s COVID-19 Vaccination Registration webpage, https://tinyurl.com/39dhfdj3, to make an appointment.
In its letter to the Governor, the Board of Supervisors said Monterey County is ready to partner with the state to assist in the distribution and administration of the COVID-19 vaccine. Its plans include strong partnerships with local entities, hospitals and health care providers, large employers such as The Pebble Beach Company, and specifically the ag community with the Grower Shipper Association of Central California, D’Arrigo and Taylor Farms.
“We’re going to fight to get vaccines for all of our essential workers. We’re going to push for all of our people at all of our plants to get vaccines as soon as possible,” said Bruce Taylor, chairman and CEO of Taylor Farms, in a prepared statement. “After the health care workers, after the first responders, I want our essential agriculture workers to be next in line and I want them all to get it before I get it. I will get one if I need to, to give everyone confidence in getting it, but these individuals are more at risk than I am. They’re the ones working hard daily to ensure fresh foods continue to be available to consumers across North America.”
In the meantime, the Board of Supervisors made the case for more vaccines for Monterey County stating that the agriculture industry is the county’s largest economic and employment sector generating $11.7 billion and employing 63,921 in 2018.
It also cites the impact of COVID-19 infection rates has had not only on the agricultural workforce but other industries as well. The high infection rate keeps the county in a restrictive tier and along with shelter-in-place orders, resulted in an estimated $1.8 billion loss to the county’s hospitality industry, thousands of jobs lost and business closures.
“Monterey County has been placed at a distinct disadvantage compared to Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and San Luis Obispo counties and other counties around the state,” said the letter in part. “These factors make the calculation for distribution to Monterey County patently unfair to county residents.”
- Multi-county entities – Residents of counties with multi-county entities benefit from an influx of vaccines through entities, such as Kaiser, Common Spirit/Dignity, and Sutter, and from the county’s allocation. While Monterey County only gets an allocation after the multi-county entities cut has been taken off the top at the state level.
- Allocations to State Prisons – The same is true for allocations to the State Prison in Soledad.
- Inequities in population for the county – Because Monterey County’s seasonal agricultural workers are not included in the county’s population, there is no allocation for the estimated 35,000 seasonal workers who migrate to Monterey County in March.
According to Mark Borman, president of Taylor Farms California, the company has developed a formal agriculture and food sector workers vaccine plan for Taylor Farms sites to be approved as drive-through vaccination stations.
“In that plan, we’ve identified and outlined details surrounding logistics, on-site staffing requirements, required equipment and materials and more to safely vaccinate patients,” said Borman. “Through Clinica de Salud, we have applied directly to the state to be an approved site and are awaiting a formal decision. Once approved, we will be ready to activate on our distribution plan as vaccines are provided to us.”
Taylor Farms will have the ability to mobilize as soon as it can get the vaccine and has been in close contact with local medical professionals to ensure it can move quickly and safely as soon as doses become available.
On Monday, Montage Health announced the launch of public vaccination clinics for the public at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula and the Montage Wellness Center in Marina. The clinics will have the capacity to vaccinate up to 7,500 each week but vaccination appointments will be dependent on the supply received from the Monterey County Health Department each week.
“We have been working on setting up these vaccine clinics for months,” said Cynthia Peck, vice president, Community Hospital and Montage Health, in a press release. “As vaccine is available, we are enormously pleased to provide this vital service to our residents and to help our community return to a healthy normal.”
Go to https://tinyurl.com/1386f7r5 to make an appointment directly through CHOMP. All appointments are first-come, first served. Montage Health encourages people to check back often.
As vaccination clinics and appointments become available, people seeking a COVID-19 inoculation will need to provide proof of sector or age required at the vaccine appointment. Vaccination appointments are for people who live or work in Monterey County.
Smith addressed the volume of communications coming in from the public inquiring about vaccination availability and appointments.
“We’ve added staff but the volume is incredible,” said Smith. “We’re running as fast as we can. We’re not alone … nationwide it has been like this.”
Smith advises folks to keep watch on the vaccination page as the county health department works on other ways for those with no access to computers or limited knowledge of using one to get the information they need. She said the county is working with 211 which should be ready as an option this week.
At last week’s media briefing, Monterey County Health Officer Dr. Edward Moreno explained that California determines how much vaccine is coming from the federal government. Based on a formula, the counties receive a share of vaccine. The Monterey County Health Department identifies providers that have been approved by the state to receive and administer the vaccine, and have demonstrated in the past an efficiency for vaccinating the population. The Health Department checks with those organizations and inquires about vaccination plans, the populations they can vaccinate, the number of people they can vaccinate, and the strategies they would use.
“We make a determination about how much vaccine to send out to each of those providers,” said Moreno.
The providers submit their orders and the county health department verifies and confirms the order amount, approves them, and forwards them to the California Department of Public Health who notifies the Centers for Disease Control which then approves the order, notifies Pfizer and Moderna of the order request and ships directly to the provider, explained Dr. Moreno.
Monterey County is requesting a special allocation of vaccine for agricultural workers along with better transparency in the number of vaccine allocations per county to ensure it receives its fair and equitable share.
The Board of Supervisors recently received letters from the Monterey County Hospitality Association, as well as from the mayor of Carmel, Del Rey Oaks, Marina, Monterey, Pacific Grove, Salinas, Sand City and Seaside urging COVID-19 testing and vaccinations for the ag community.
Contributed by local news sources