SALINAS — People at risk of exposure to the novel coronavirus through their work in any role in direct health care or long-term care settings are now being vaccinated in Monterey County, with seniors and frontline essential workers next.
Those currently being vaccinated as part of the three tiers of Phase 1a include paramedics, primary care clinic workers and pharmacy staff.
Marina community school nurse Melanie Allen was one of the first Monterey Peninsula Unified School District employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Allen received her first shot on Monday from the Monterey County Health Department because she volunteered to administer vaccines for the department. The district said in a statement that it hopes to be able to host vaccination sites at some point down the road.
The order of COVID-19 vaccine administration is based on a schedule by the county Health Department. After the completion of Phase 1a, frontline essential workers and residents age 75 and older will be next in Phase 1b. But determining exactly when those older adults will begin receiving the vaccine is difficult for the department to pin down.
So far, Monterey County has received 8,775 of the Pfizer and 8,300 of the Moderna vaccines. The Health Department says it has and continues to plan for the distribution of vaccine to residents as it becomes available, but quantities are extremely limited.
Karen Smith, a spokesperson for the Monterey County Health Department, said that because those supplies are limited and unreliable in that orders can be placed but what is received may not be certain, it makes it difficult to provide a timeline.
The California Department of Public Health determines the number of doses allocated to Monterey County based on the population of the priority tiers currently being vaccinated and the amount of vaccine the state receives from the federal government.
Smith said that when it comes time to vaccinate those 75 and older, they will have several ways to receive an inoculation such as through a primary care provider, mass vaccination clinics and drive-thru setups.
Smith said that soon there will be a portal to sign up to get more information via email.
“We request people to be patient. We will get there and the word today is that more vaccine will be released from the federal government,” said Smith. “They’re not holding it back. Second doses are being released and getting into the system all over the U.S.”
But Smith said that the process has been hampered when individuals who are not health care providers use up vaccine clinic appointments, slowing down the distribution and pushing subsequent phases and tiers back further.
The Monterey County Health Department, along with partnering agencies, launched the county’s first COVID-19 vaccination clinics for health care workers last month. Health care employers received that information in order to identify and inform their workforce. In some instances, health care workers shared that information with family and friends who were not health care workers.
“They now will be asked for some kind of proof when going to a vaccination clinic,” said Smith. “The faster we get through this, the faster we can get to persons 75 years and older.”
COVID-19 continues to surge statewide, requiring a healthy workforce that cares for the ever-increasing number of people in need of medical care and hospitalization.
Monterey County has a large number of health care providers including hospitals, clinics and long-term care facilities. About a third of Monterey County’s population is age 75 and older and the total population of the county is close to 1% of California’s total.
When vaccine supplies become more available, the Monterey County Health Department will move to Phase 1b of the state’s COVID-19 vaccine plan. The Health Department will inform the public when transitioning to additional phases and tiers, as well as how individuals in those groups can access COVID-19 vaccination services.
In the meantime, it is important to continue adhering to health and safety protocols to slow the spread of the virus including avoiding gatherings with individuals outside your own home, wearing face coverings over the nose and mouth, frequently washing hands and staying 6 feet apart from others at work and in public settings.
For more information, visit the Monterey County Health Department’s website.
Contributed by local news sources