Monterey County Supervisors: CVS should have included Salinas Valley pharmacies

Peninsula Premier Admin

MONTEREY – CVS Health announced Tuesday it will begin administering COVID-19 vaccinations at 100 pharmacy locations in California next week including Carmel and Monterey but Monterey County Supervisors think sites in the Salinas Valley should have been included.

Supply for the limited rollout to the state, which is sourced directly from the federal pharmacy partnership program, will be approximately 81,900 total doses, according to a press release from CVS Health.

Participating CVS Pharmacies are in communities throughout California including Carmel and Monterey, though no Salinas Valley locations were listed.

But Monterey County Supervisors Luis Alejo and Chris Lopez want that remedied with unanimous support from the rest of the board.

“There are needs in those cities too but there are zip codes that have higher rates of infection,” said Alejo.

A letter was being drafted Wednesday to share the concern the distribution sites are outside of, and not easily accessed by, the hardest-hit communities within Monterey County. It will ask for equity considerations in the relocation of the sites.

“It exacerbates the inequities,” said Lopez.

He cited the Biden administration policy that the federal government should pursue a comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all, including people of color and others who have been historically underserved, marginalized, and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality.

“It’s time for folks to put actions where words are,” said Lopez.

Supervisor Mary Adams, whose district includes much of the Monterey Peninsula and Big Sur,  said her personal thought was that “it’s a big mistake” that CVS Pharmacies in the Salinas Valley were not being listed as part of the rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations next week.

“I think that CVS really needs to include the areas where we have the highest presence of COVID and that’s a simple thing by looking at the zip codes,” said Adams. “I feel like in my mind we ought to be focusing the resources in those areas particularly if we want to get back to some sort of a normal life in the not too distant future.”

The proposed letter will be addressed to state and federal leaders including top officials in the Biden administration.

Alejo said it is not a fair and equitable distribution of the vaccine. He believes continuing to call attention to the needs of the community —  especially for those who do not have access to a computer, the knowledge of how to navigate a website or even high-speed internet access, and may get left behind — is a priority.

It is an opportunity to plead with the Biden administration and Health and Human Services that Monterey County needs more vaccines, said Alejo.

The supervisor said some solutions to consider would be to have a system that gives an allotment of appointments to those zip codes with higher rates of infection or set up clinics in those zip codes and provide easier access to the vaccine for those with proof of eligibility and residency in those zip codes.

CVS Pharmacy locations will begin to offer COVID-19 vaccinations on Feb. 11 with appointments becoming available as early as Feb. 9 as stores receive the vaccine. It will be available to individuals meeting state criteria. Patients must register in advance at CVS.com or through the CVS Pharmacy app. People without online access can contact CVS customer service at 800-746-7287. Walk-ins without an appointment will not be provided a vaccination.

California is among an initial 11-state rollout as part of CVS Health’s larger plan to expand access to COVID-19 vaccines at CVS Pharmacy locations across the U.S.

The initial effort includes about 335 CVS Pharmacy locations among states including California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia.

Vaccines will eventually be available at CVS Pharmacy locations throughout the country subject to product availability, with the capacity to administer between 20 and 25 million shots per month.

The initial rollout in California includes participating CVS Pharmacies in Agoura Hills, Bakersfield, Carmel, Carlsbad, Chula Vista, Clovis, Eureka, Huntington Beach, Irvine, La Jolla, Los Angeles, Modesto, Monterey, Newport Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sonoma, Sunnyvale, Ventura and Yuba City.

As more supply becomes available, CVS Health said it will expand to more locations and offer additional appointments.

CVS Health did not respond to attempts for comment for this story.

Contributed by local news sources

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