I am hearing from hundreds of people about the issues with the vaccine rollout, and trust me, I am frustrated too. The good news is that 11% of the county’s population of 411,096 residents aged 16+ have received at least one dose of vaccine; 3% are fully vaccinated and 8% have received their first doses, with more becoming vaccinated every day.
Vaccine clinic Feb. 17-19 in Sonoma
The Governor prematurely announced that everyone over 65 was eligible to receive a vaccine when there are not enough vaccines to go around. So, to make the most of our vaccine supplies and prioritize those who are most vulnerable, Sonoma County initially prioritized ages 75 and above; this week it was lowered to 70+, and then 65+ as more are vaccinated and vaccine supply increases. Also beginning this week, eligibility will be expanded to agricultural workers, and teachers/school staff will access vaccinations at Rancho Cotati High School.
A lot of folks reaching out to me are bringing up other counties and how their vaccinations are going. I completely understand how frustrating it is when friends in Long Beach or Marin are vaccinated while you are not even eligible here, but there are a few different factors to consider.
Each County must create its own vaccine plan that best meets the demographics, geography, medical system providing care, etc. Sonoma County is partnering with our major medical providers and has developed eligibility tiers based on data showing the disproportionate impacts COVID on certain classes of workers and older seniors. Roughly 64 percent of the 275 deaths that have occurred in Sonoma County since the pandemic began have been those age 75 and above. January was the deadliest month of the pandemic so far, with 103 deaths.
Since we don’t have the built-in infrastructure of a large hospital operated by our County, we need to partner with our medical providers including Kaiser, Sutter, St. Josephs, all of our Health Care Clinics (FQHCs), hospitals, primary care groups, and medical associations and Safeway.
In addition, we suspect that the State is sending allocation based on small, medium and large counties, without real consideration of the difference in size of some small counties. With 500,000 residents we are considered small, but are three times the size of Napa and twice the size of Marin. We have been unable to confirm this allocation methodology, but it makes sense considering both Napa and Marin are working into the 65+ tier. I explain all of this not to make excuses, but to share exactly what is happening with this rollout. We know the community is upset about this process, and we are too.
Given that our region is known as a retirement destination, Sonoma County is home to roughly 102,000 residents who are 65 and over, representing about 25+ percent of our total adult population. Quite simply, Sonoma County does not have enough vaccines to address this demand. We have been receiving around 6,000 vaccines per week (now increasing to 7,500 doses), not including those provided to our large health systems (Kaiser, Sutter, and St. Josephs) which receive vaccine supply directly from the State, and the CVS/Walgreen’s partnership, responsible for vaccinating residential care facilities, receive supply from the Federal Government.
This is why the county initially focused on those 75 and above, about 36,000 residents. This group represents those most vulnerable, most at risk and, in general, least tech-savvy and thus least able to schedule vaccinations online without assistance. I know that there are vulnerable folks who are not over 75, and we are gradually expanding to lower ages, but we are asking our clinics to reserve doses for those 75+. This is the age group that is the least able to navigate technology and schedule appointments. And we are collaborating with organizations providing services to seniors in all communities, but especially those who are homebound or without technology or language skill, to implement innovative ways to outreach and signup seniors and provide transportation to vaccine distribution sites.
In our County, there are a few ways for our residents 70+ to be vaccinated, and more are coming online every day. The OptumServe site in Rohnert Park, Berger Center in Oakmont, Sonoma Valley High School, West County Services, Petaluma and Windsor, among other locations around the county are or have been open and accepting appointments. Soon we will be rolling out additional sites including the Sonoma Veteran’s Building, which is scheduled to open February 16.
Please check our website below for a full list of clinics currently open, learn how to make an appointment, and frequently asked questions. Most importantly, think about the people in your life who are eligible, and consider helping them navigate the sign-up process at one of the available sites, particularly if they struggle as so many of us do with technology.
The fact remains that our supply does not even begin to meet the need. Information changes on a daily and sometimes hourly basis; as soon as I reply to a constituent or send out a newsletter, the information is out of date. Find current info at SoCoemergency.org