Yolo County officials and volunteers work for hours to distribute COVID-19 vaccines
Healthcare providers in California are now following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order to transition to age-based vaccine eligibility. Residents who are 65 and older are now eligible to be vaccinated in Yolo County.
Yolo County Public Information Officer Jenny Tan explained why seniors have received vaccine priority. Data has shown that the majority of the people in Yolo County who have passed away due to COVID-19 complications were 75 and older, therefore elderly people were given vaccine priority, according to Tan.
While Tan understands that many residents may feel like they should be higher up on the list depending on their health concerns or age, she noted that Yolo County receives only 1,000 to 2,000 doses a week although there are 220,000 residents in total.
“When everyone is a priority, no one is a priority,” Tan said. “Even if we add more categories and more priorities, it doesn’t fix the supply issue.”
Healthcare providers receive their own limited doses, so seniors are able to check for vaccine availability at their regular institution. Furthermore, seniors may receive vaccinations from Yolo County by signing the vaccine notification form, which includes the individual’s age, place of work, city of residence and underlying health conditions. Once an individual meets the tier requirements, the county will send them an email that shows the available facilities and how one can sign up.
Patients may also visit Yolo County’s vaccine information website, and they will be notified which clinics are eligible for registration. Tan and other Yolo County employees work with various partners, such as senior homes, Meals on Wheels and food banks to help their clients sign up when clinics are offering vaccines.
Tan mentioned that there are several ways seniors may hear about vaccine updates, even if they struggle with technology. She explained that Yolo County has been active in media interviews, so residents can find information online, on the radio, television or even through word of mouth.
Tan urges Yolo County residents to stay patient because hours of hard work are being spent behind the scenes, like ordering doses, figuring out how many to distribute to each institution and doing outreach.
Yolo County uses a database to request a number of doses from the state, but they do not always receive that amount. In the week of Feb. 7, 1,975 doses of Moderna and Pfizer were directly sent to Yolo County, according to Tan.
Tan explained that when Yolo County is notified of the number of doses they will receive, they work on locating the clinics, deciding which hospitals will receive vaccines and how many to give out to each area. If they decide to organize a drive-thru, the county will need volunteers. Volunteers must complete paperwork, and the county sets a schedule to unfreeze the vials.
In a typical drive-thru clinic, five to 10 staff members prepare and set up data entry, which takes about 10 hours, according to Tan. Another five to 10 staff members require a few hours to load supplies into trucks. A total of 100 volunteers and staff members would work for six to seven hours to vaccinate the clients who come in. Afterwards, 50 to 100 hours are dedicated to data entry, as forms must be entered in the system for their second dose.
“For you, it’s 30 minutes, but on the back end, it’s hundreds of hours for us to do that,” Tan said.
Kaiser Permanente, a hospital that receives doses from Yolo County, has been vaccinating individuals 75 and older. They reach out to the community when appointments are available, and members who are contacted by Kaiser can schedule an appointment online.
Kaiser Permanente Public Relations and Media Relations worker Chyresse Hill shared via email that Kaiser prioritizes patients “who are at an increased risk of mortality or other severe disease, as well as those who reside in vulnerable communities.”
Tan has also received the vaccine, and she believes that it is safe since studies have been done and millions have already received it. She had a sore arm and described the feeling as a “flu shot,” but it soon healed. If people are worried, she recommends that they do careful research at legitimate sources, including the Centers For Disease Control (CDC), rather than listening to someone who may provide false information.
Until the majority of the population is vaccinated, Tan explains that everyone has a responsibility to continue wearing masks and practice social distancing. She was hopeful that life can return to normal once vaccinations are widespread.
“If more people get vaccinated, then we will be able to open up more businesses and have some sort of normal life,” Tan said.
Written by: Ellie Lee — firstname.lastname@example.org