In San Mateo County, about one-third of the health care workers and long-term care residents eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine have received it so far, county health officials said Tuesday.
Through a vaccination clinic, pharmacy partnerships and health providers, vaccine rollout continues this week for those eligible under Phase 1A of the state’s vaccine rollout plan, which includes health care workers at risk of exposure to the virus and residents of long-term care facilities.
During a report to the county’s Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Dr. Anand Chabra — medical director of the Family Health Services Division and lead for the county’s vaccination efforts — described the county’s vaccination progress.
The county aims to vaccinate about 50,000 people — 38,000 health care workers and 12,000 long-term care residents — during this initial phase.
Of those 50,000, Chabra said 16,502 county residents (almost a third) had received the vaccination as of Sunday. That number only includes San Mateo County residents, not those who work in the county but live elsewhere and may have been vaccinated elsewhere.
Health systems like Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Health are responsible for administering the bulk of the vaccinations for their workers and individuals covered under their health plans.
For those not covered under health plans, the county is using its allotment of 22,300 vaccine doses to fill the gap.
San Mateo County Health chief Louise Rogers said the county is “focused on being the safety net [and] immunizing those populations that are not reached through the health care system.”
To boost vaccination efforts, the county launched a vaccination clinic Monday for eligible health care workers and long-term care residents who cannot receive the vaccine through other means.
The clinic is closed to the general public but available by appointment only for eligible health care workers and long-term care residents eligible under Phase 1A. Eligible individuals must complete an eligibility attestation form before signing up.
Through Saturday, the clinic has the capacity for almost 2,000 appointments per day. Chabra said there were 952 vaccinations during the clinic’s launch on Monday and approximately 1,300 appointments were scheduled for Tuesday.
In addition to the clinic, the county also partnered with Walgreens and CVS pharmacies to provide vaccinations at skilled nursing facilities.
Chabra said 15 of 17 nursing facilities in the county are scheduled for vaccinations this week into early next week.
Walgreens and CVS will also help provide vaccine opportunities for 60 other facilities countywide, such as assisted living and congregate care facilities.
The county partnered with Safeway to provide vaccination to 1,300 residents and staff at dialysis centers in assisted living facilities. So far, 209 staff members from this group have been vaccinated, Chabra said.
During the board meeting, some supervisors expressed concerns about public outreach regarding the vaccine and communities who might be skeptical about the vaccine.
Instead of using the 211 phone line for vaccine questions, Rogers encouraged people with questions about the vaccine to email the county. County Manager Mike Callagy suggested creating a public service announcement about the vaccine.
Rogers said an equity working group will meet Thursday for the first time to discuss equity and transparency regarding vaccinations, especially for communities on the lower spectrum of the Healthy Places Index (HPI). The goal is to provide culturally-competent and science-based communications, Rogers said.
“We know that vaccine take-up in many of our lowest quartile Healthy Places Index communities is going to be challenging because of the distrust of the vaccine,” Rogers said. “In addition to mobilizing messages for those communities with the input of representatives of those communities, we expect — similar to the testing work — that we would enlist local community leaders to be messengers to those communities.”
As COVID-19 cases continue to rise countywide and statewide, Rogers warned that the surge might not be over.
“We do not believe that we have yet seen the full impact of the holiday surge,” Rogers said.
Almost one-third of the county’s total COVID-19 cases have occurred in the last 30 days. That’s 9,276 cases in the last 30 days out of 29,199 cumulative cases.
The county’s data dashboard shows that 66 out of 68 ICU beds are in use, with an additional 88 ICU surge beds available. However, ICU capacity changes daily — as patients are admitted, discharged or transferred — and surge capacity depends largely on staffing.
“Having the beds in theory is not the same as being able to staff them,” Rogers said, adding that at least one county hospital has so far requested staffing assistance from the state.
In December, the county partnered with AMI Expeditionary Healthcare and Dignity Health’s Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City to staff 10 extra ICU beds, which have already been used, Rogers said.
People should continue to observe COVID-19 safety precautions, which include wearing a face mask in public, practicing social distancing, washing hands frequently and avoiding gatherings.
“Even those residents that have received their first vaccination, or even potentially their second, are expected to continue wearing face coverings and respecting social distancing and so on, so that we can continue to reel this thing in,” Rogers said.
For more information on the county’s vaccination rollout plan, people can visit https://www.smchealth.org/covid-19-vaccination.