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Days after discussing its plight with getting more COVID-19 vaccinations into the arms of residents, Sonoma County announced that it has been selected to take part in a pilot vaccination program through OptumServe. The county is one of four that will take part in the clinic pilot program.

OptumServe has operated COVID-19 testing sites in Sonoma County and throughout the state for the bulk of the pandemic.

Under the pilot program, OptumServe was slated begin administering vaccinations at a clinic at the Rohnert Park Community Center starting on Wednesday, Jan. 27. The clinic will be targeted for Sonoma County residents ages 75 and above. Appointments are required and, at the outset, are being set up by invitation only through local senior citizen community groups. The clinic will handle up to 420 vaccinations a day.

“This is an incredible opportunity for Sonoma County as OptumServe already has extensive experience in operating large-capacity sites like this,” said Lynda Hopkins, chair of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. “This is one more opportunity we will have to make sure that we get vaccines to those residents most at risk of contracting this virus.”

At a county briefing on Jan. 21, local health officials and supervisors discussed the vaccination effort, and followed it up with an official announcement. However, at its most basic level there continues to be a problem with number of doses available from the federal government as well as filtered to the county through the state.

“It is a supply and demand issue we are dealing with,” said supervisor David Rabbitt. “Distribution is overseen by a federal program, and that too has been frustratingly very slow.”

County officials said that they hoped to have capacity to vaccinate more than 2,000 people a day, thanks to opening vaccination centers and working with hospitals and health care providers such as Kaiser, Sutter and St. Joseph, federally qualified health centers and the federal Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program with CVS and Walgreens, which is responsible for vaccinations at skilled nursing facilities and residential care facilities. 

Following the announcement about the OptumServe partnership, the county said that it now has the capacity to provide up to 2,5000 vaccinations or more per day.

“We are activating as many clinics as possible in partnership with health care providers and community organizations of all kinds,” said Barbie Robinson, director of the Sonoma County Department of Health Services, in a statement. “Our biggest concern is whether we will receive enough doses of vaccine in the days ahead to support all of these clinics. While that issue is out of our hands, we will continue to advocate for the resources we need, including additional doses.”

Getting enough people in the community vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity will require a “total community commitment” from all sectors including health care, education, business as well as agriculture, labor and nonprofit groups, county supervisors said. Participation will range from hosting vaccination clinics at community centers or places of employment to volunteering and sharing accurate and timely information on what vaccination opportunities exist for family members, coworkers, friends and neighbors. 

“Most of all we need a community commitment to being patient as we distribute vaccines in the most equitable way possible, making sure that those most vulnerable and most at risk are vaccinated first,” said Hopkins. “We are partnering with our health-care providers to distribute the vaccines as quickly as possible, but we are limited by how many vaccines we receive here in Sonoma County. We are going to continue to move quickly and safely through the different phases of the plan, but we are all going to need to be patient until it is our turn.” 

On Jan. 21, Sonoma county Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase announced that the county has completed Phase 1a Tier 1 of the vaccination distribution plan including frontline health-care workers, paramedics and others in this tier. There is a separate federal program to vaccinate residents of long-term care facilities.

Vaccinations are now under way for those in Phase 1a, Tier 2 and Tier 3, which include specialty clinic staff, laboratory workers and dental clinic staff. Mase said that the county expects to be ready to start vaccinating those in Phase 1b Tier 1 by early February. That phase includes individuals 65 and older, teachers and childcare providers, emergency service workers and food and agriculture workers. 

“With Phase 1b, we will eventually distribute the vaccine to a much larger population of essential workers and vulnerable adults. But we are going to need a greater allotment of vaccines,” Mase said. “It will take a historic effort to scale up the vaccination rollout, and we are working with many partner organizations and volunteer vaccinators on this monumental task.” 

Vaccination clinics that are in operation or soon to open include:

  • AMR and fire agency clinic for first responders and law enforcement at Public Health Lab, with capacity for 200 per day.
  • Sonoma County Medical Association clinic for health-care providers at Grace Pavilion, with capacity for 300 per day. (Additional lanes will also be available at Grace which has a capacity for up to 1,200 per day.)
  • Safeway clinic for in-home supportive services workers at Sonoma County Fairgrounds, with capacity for 300 per day.
  • Clinical Health Appraisals clinic for Public Health field workers at County Administration building, with capacity for 200 per day.
  • DEMA Consulting clinic for community health promoters at Roseland Library, with capacity for 200 per day.
  • The Fitness Center at Santa Rosa Junior College-Petaluma Campus, which will have capacity for more than 300 vaccinations per day.
  • Huerta Gym in Windsor which will have capacity for 300 or more vaccinations per day.

In addition, the county is looking at setting up a vaccination center in Sonoma Valley.

These do not include all the vaccinations that are also underway through hospitals, health care providers, federally qualified health centers and CVS and Walgreens. 

Officials also plan to expand existing sites or open new vaccination centers in early February to begin serving Phase 1b populations, including teachers, in partnership with Sonoma County Office of Education; food and agriculture workers; and residents 65 and older.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent announcement that those 65 and older are now eligible to receive the vaccine has caused some confusion about prioritization. While local officials are working hard to make a variety of paths available for that population to receive the vaccine, it will be dependent on available supply.

However, Mase said one way they will be attempting to order things, is to prioritize individuals 65 and over in the categories already slated in the tiers. For example, teachers over the age of 65 will be prioritized over teachers under that age group.

Options for that population will include:

Primary care provider: A patient’s personal physician or health care provider will be the primary source of obtaining the vaccine.

Federally qualified health centers: Patients without a primary care provider will have an opportunity to obtain the vaccine at one of these health centers.

Safeway pharmacy: Sonoma County has partnered with Safeway to provide the vaccines at 11 pharmacies countywide.

Vaccination centers: Residents will be able to obtain the vaccine from one of the vaccination centers noted above. 

Officials encouraged county residents and workers to go to socoemergency.org/vaccine for up-to-date information on the progress of the rollout. 

Officials encouraged county residents and workers to go to socoemergency.org/vaccine for up-to-date information on the progress of the rollout. As of Jan. 25, 31,382 vaccine doses have been administered in Sonoma County, including 19,344 residents who have received a first dose, and 6,019 who have been fully vaccinated with two doses.

You can check your eligibility for vaccination at https://myturn.ca.gov.

Finally, licensed health care workers interested in volunteering as vaccinators in the new vaccination clinics can sign up at SoCoEmergency.org/VaccineVolunteers.

Additional reporting by Zoë Strickland.

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