The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday discussed the county’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout after recent confusion over vaccination appointments made online.
Urmila Shende, Sonoma County’s COVID-19 vaccine chief, fielded questions from the supervisors about the vaccine rollout and how the county can best reduce the spread of the virus and follow public health directives.
The supervisors also aired their frustrations with the vaccine distribution, and floated ideas about what they could potentially do to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on Sonoma County.
Last week, a vaccination clinic in Rohnert Park meant for people 75 and older had thousands of people younger than that sign up online for appointments after a link for the OptumServe scheduling website was shared on social media. The county canceled the appointments for those under 75 and has since announced several additional clinics for people 75 and older.
“We are looking to partner with different groups within the community that are working on communications, to try and reach out and to have both public messaging as well as targeted meetings, conversations, lunch chats, that kind of thing to try and explain to people [the science behind the vaccine],” Shende said.
Shende also noted that Sonoma County receives, on average, 6,500 doses of the coronavirus vaccine from the state per week, but that based on the supply, it’s difficult to predict how much vaccine they’ll receive each week.
As of Monday, Sonoma County has reported 26,189 positive coronavirus tests and 265 deaths, according to county data. 45,681 vaccine doses have been administered.
However, Sonoma County’s current rate of vaccination is far from ideal, according to Supervisor Lynda Hopkins.
“If we were to vaccinate every single person in Sonoma County, half a million people, multiply that by two because there are two doses, that’s a million. If you’re looking at our current rate of vaccination, we’re talking about three years,” Hopkins said.
Responding to Hopkins’ concerns, Shende was optimistic that the next two to three months will see a dramatic increase in vaccine production and a more coordinated federal response to the pandemic.
The next phase of the vaccine rollout will include education and childcare providers, in addition to essential workers in the food and agriculture sectors.
Supervisor Chris Coursey mentioned concerns over the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is yet to be released, because its effectiveness hovers around 66 percent, whereas the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines currently in use are 95 percent effective. However, Shende noted that because all of the vaccines are so effective, there is no reason to prefer one over another.
The supervisors also discussed the technical issues many residents were experiencing with the OptumServe vaccine appointment website and noted that people should call (877) 218-0381 if they’re experiencing technical difficulties.
Near the tail end of their discussion about the vaccine rollout, supervisors discussed what they need to do better moving forward, and the pressure they face from various groups each jockeying to get a vaccine sooner.
“I would love to just blame the governor, the federal government for all of that. But I think we all share the responsibility of providing vaccines safely, and in a prioritized way,” said Supervisor Susan Gorin.
“Look at the folks who are most vulnerable in our communities, prioritize them first, then the rest of us will wait, I’m confident that I will receive my vaccine in a month or two or three,” she added.