A VTA Driver assists Robinson Mangaoang take his father, Ferdinand Mangaoang to his vaccine appointment at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds in San Jose, Calif on April 26, 2021.(Jana Kadah/Bay City News)

Santa Clara County Supervisors Joe Simitian and Otto Lee called for a continuation this week of the county’s program that provides COVID-19 vaccinations regardless of insurance or ability to pay.

Over the last week, the county closed its mass vaccination and testing sites at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds, the animal shelter in San Martin and the San Antonio Shopping Center in Mountain View.

Simitian argued Tuesday, though, that the county should view the COVID vaccination program similarly to the seasonal flu vaccine program. Federal health officials have already endorsed an annual COVID booster vaccine to protect against future variants of the virus.

“The reason the county vaccine program has been so successful is because it’s been easy and convenient,” Simitian said in a statement. “And while it might make sense to ‘ramp down’ our existing sites, I think we do need to maintain some level of easy access for the foreseeable future.”

Simitian and Lee called on county officials to return to the board’s Health and Hospital Committee, which Simitian chairs, on April 12 and to the full Board of Supervisors on April 18 with plans to continue the COVID vaccination program into the foreseeable future.

As of March 1, 88.3 percent of Santa Clara County residents have completed their initial vaccination series, while roughly one-third of county residents have received a bivalent booster, which targets two strains of the omicron variant.

With the county’s large vaccination sites now closed, COVID vaccines are only available locally for uninsured people at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center facilities.

Vaccines are also available with insurance at retail pharmacies and health care facilities operated by large providers like Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Health.

Simitian and Lee noted that while demand for vaccinations from the county has declined, nearly 18,000 residents received a COVID vaccine from a county facility in December 2022.

“Our county residents have done an outstanding job of getting vaccinated, and we need to continue making vaccines available, especially for vulnerable populations,” Lee said.

Residents can schedule a COVID or flu vaccine appointment through the county at https://vax.sccgov.org or by calling (408) 970-2000.