Public health officials rush to vaccinate older population

Covid-19 vaccine supply shortage prompted prioritization

The San Benito County Public Health Services hosted a drive-thru Covid-19 mass vaccination clinic in Hollister on Jan. 29. Photo: Juan Reyes

San Benito County Public Health Services announced that they’re working twice as fast to streamline vaccine distribution to the most vulnerable residents who are 75 years of age and older.

Public Information Officer David Westrick issued a press release on Feb. 3 stating that a shortage of Covid-19 vaccinations throughout California led local public health officials to prioritize shots for older adults “because of the virus’ high mortality rate within that group.”

County Public interim Health Officer Dr. David Ghilarducci said in the release that two-thirds of all Covid-19 deaths in the county are residents who are 75 and above.

“A vaccine offered to a resident above age 75 is 300 times more likely to save a life than a vaccine offered to someone under the age of 50,” he said.

Westrick said the state received a smaller supply of vaccine shipments this week. He added that weekly dose allocations are slower compared to shipments in December and early January.

The state allocates Covid-19 vaccine doses based on a formula designed to ensure fair distribution statewide, according to Westrick. 

“With the current pace of supply, it will take several weeks to offer a first dose to all older adults who would like to be vaccinated,” he said.

Westrick said that Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccinations require a second dose, which limits the number of new people who can be vaccinated each week. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its COVID-19 vaccine guidance to allow for a second dose to be administered up to six weeks after the first one. They stated that the data from clinical trials support the range.

“Modest delays in the administration of the second dose, if absolutely necessary, would not be expected to decrease the protection conferred by the second dose,” said Food and Drug Administration officials in a statement.

San Benito County healthcare providers have vaccinated the majority of people who fall under Phase 1A, which includes healthcare workers and medical emergency responders. Those in Tiers 1-3 are on target for their second dose of the vaccine.

“There is an imbalance of supply, demand and expectation,” Ghilarducci said. “The demand for vaccine is high, which is good for the long-term health of our community, but the expectation that vaccines will be provided right now far outweighs the number of doses we’ve been given.  The infrastructure for giving the vaccine is ready, we just need the supply.”

Westrick would like to remind individuals who fall under Phase 1B to visit the Covid-19 Vaccine Information webpage to complete the online Covid-19 vaccination interest form, which is a tool to eventually schedule an appointment. Those who qualify will then be informed where to get a vaccine shot.

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