California to spend $33 million to combat vaccine hesitancy, reach more communities

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California plans to shift its strategy for COVID-19 vaccination, as demand has been slowing while more than one-third of adults still have not received a first dose.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office said Tuesday that, in order to “bolster vaccine access in hard-to-reach communities, the state is moving away from mass vaccination sites and toward more targeted outreach with small clinics in communities with the highest disease burden.”

The governor’s office in a news release announced an additional $33 million in funding “to support community-based organizations” that work to vaccinate hard-to-reach communities, address vaccine hesitancy or otherwise support the vaccination campaign.

The California Department of Public Health reported Wednesday that 13.2 million are now fully vaccinated and another 6 million have had one dose of the two-dose vaccines from Pfizer or Moderna. That means 48% of the state’s roughly 40 million residents, and about 61% of its 31 million adults, are at least partially vaccinated.

The 61% mark in adults is better than the nationwide rate of 57% reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but health experts say it is critical to quickly vaccinate as much of the population as possible not only to protect against disease transmission, but to keep the virus from mutating and developing new variants that could be more infectious or dangerous.

President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced a goal of having 70% of U.S. adults at least partially vaccinated by July 4. Absent a major setback, California is well on track to meet that deadline, needing fewer than 48,000 first doses per day in adults to hit the 70% threshold by Independence Day.

Still, CDPH data show the pace of vaccinations has slowed, from an average of close to 400,000 doses a day statewide in mid-April down to about 270,000 total first and second doses per day over the past week.

COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are authorized only for those 18 and older, while Pfizer has been cleared for use in ages 16 and up. The Food and Drug Administration is expected to authorize Pfizer for use in ages 12 to 15 by early next week, the New York Times and other outlets reported this week, which would add about 2 million to the pool of eligible Californians.

Declining demand at mass vaccination sites was on display this week in Sacramento County.

With a few thousand appointment slots unfilled Monday morning, local officials ditched the appointment requirement and for the first time allowed drop-ins at the drive-thru sites at Cal Expo and McClellan Park. A county spokeswoman called the drop-off “unprecedented.”

It is also of particular concern because the county’s vaccination rate continues to trail the rest of California by several percentage points.

Many other Sacramento-region providers and partnering clinics have also stopped requiring appointments in advance, increasingly offering walk-ins (or drive-ups), as supply has finally forged past demand. The CVS Pharmacy chain announced Wednesday it will begin walk-in vaccinations, joining Rite Aid and Walgreens, which also recently began to do so.

Health officials have often suggested that the shift from mass vaccination sites to places like pharmacies will help increase uptake rates, as some residents will likely be more comfortable getting a COVID-19 vaccine the same place they get their yearly flu shots.

Mobile, neighborhood-based clinics have recently faced some challenges due to issues involving the J&J vaccine, the only single-dose COVID-19 vaccine currently authorized in the U.S.

J&J, which rolled out in the U.S. at the start of March, was frequently used by county health offices and their partners for the types of mobile clinics the state is in part urging a shift to in lieu of mass vaccination sites, because its one-dose nature gave it a logistical advantage over Pfizer and Moderna for hard-to-reach communities.

But last month, use of the J&J vaccine was put on a federally recommended pause for 11 days while officials investigated a very small number of rare, severe blood clotting cases in recipients. And, separate from that issue, J&J has dealt with supply shortages due to a problem at a U.S. manufacturing plant, which has kept weekly shipments far smaller than anticipated both before and after the pause.

Local health officials including Sacramento County health officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye have mentioned repeatedly in recent weeks the importance of maintaining public confidence in the safety and efficacy of J&J. Kaisrye points out that the pause should be a reassurance that federal agencies are remaining vigilant in monitoring the vaccines for potential health concerns.

Federal allocation data posted Wednesday by the CDC show California is again slated to receive roughly 2 million doses of vaccine next week: more than 1.1 million from Pfizer, 836,000 from Moderna and just 67,600 from J&J.

Weekly supply has been mostly flat since about early April, but CDPH reported Wednesday there were nearly 7.2 million doses on hand in providers’ inventories.

Though reporting delays could account for some of that total, 7.2 million would represent more than three weeks of vaccine for California, based on both the supply rate and the pace at which jabs have been given, further demonstrating that supply has thrust past demand.

How many are fully, partially vaccinated in Sacramento area?

These are the totals for combined first and second doses, administered through Tuesday, as reported by the state public health department, by recipient county of residence.

Sacramento: 1,069,002 (68,177 doses per 100,000 residents)

El Dorado: 136,036 (70,449 doses per 100,000)

Placer: 308,756 (77,105 doses per 100,000)

Yolo: 180,911 (80,904 doses per 100,000)

Here is what percentage of each county’s total population is fully and partially vaccinated, according to CDPH data.

Figures may be undercounts due to data reporting delays.

Sacramento-area health offices, public clinics and pharmacies

Most county health offices are splitting their direct allocations among their own county-run clinics, hospitals and other partners.

Sacramento

Sacramento County continues to offer drive-thru vaccine clinics at Cal Expo, McClellan Park and Natomas High School; and walk-thru clinics at California Northstate University in Elk Grove and at Sacramento State.

Some clinics including the Cal Expo and McClellan Park sites used to require appointments in advance but are increasingly encouraging residents to show up even without an appointment as supply holds steady while demand slows. Scheduling and booking information can be found at dhs.saccounty.net.

Sacramento also has CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens stores participating in the federal partnership program, and the county is also partnered with 11 Safeway pharmacies.

El Dorado

El Dorado runs clinics at its public health offices in Placerville and South Lake Tahoe. The Placerville clinic as of Wednesday morning had appointment slots as available for Thursday and Friday.

The county also has a first-dose Moderna clinic scheduled for May 22 at the El Dorado Community Health Center in Cameron Park.

A drive-thru site that had been set up at the Red Hawk Casino parking structure had its final clinic last Thursday and is now closed, county officials said.

El Dorado County notes on its website that J&J has been cleared for use, but it is not listed as being given at any of the clinics planned for this week. J&J doses made up about 11% of the county health office’s supply inventory as of Tuesday, officials said.

Walgreens in Cameron Park and the CVS store on Palmer Drive in Cameron Park offer Moderna vaccine appointments as part of the federal retail pharmacy partnership.

The county is also partnered with six Safeway stores.

More detailed information on county-run and county-partnered vaccine clinics can be found at edcgov.us/Government/hhsa/edccovid-19-clinics.

Placer

Placer County offers its county-run clinics at The Grounds, formerly the Placer County Fairgrounds, in Roseville.

The county as of Wednesday morning had just one first-dose clinic listed at The Grounds for this week and it has passed. The Grounds gave J&J doses Tuesday.

Appointment links for qualifying residents are posted as they become available at placer.ca.gov/vaccineclinics and through MyTurn.

Placer is also partnered with eight Safeway pharmacies throughout the county.

Appointments can also be made at Remedy RX Pharmacy in Roseville through a local partnership.

Yolo

Yolo County has planned five public and two private first-dose clinics this week, after holding three of each last week. Three of the public clinics are during evening hours.

The county most recently announced a Friday clinic at the UC Davis parking lot near the Mondavi Center. The clinic is a drive-thru giving J&J from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., with no appointment needed.

Yolo will be offering J&J from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday at La Superior in Woodland, and J&J at the Winters Community Center from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Walk-ins are welcome. The HHSA Bauer Building in Woodland will be giving J&J and first doses of Pfizer from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. No appointment is needed, and the clinic is a drive-thru only.

Holy Cross Church in West Sacramento will be giving J&J and Pfizer first doses from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

The private clinics were planned for Wednesday and Friday at the Yolo food bank.

More details regarding county-run clinics are available on the county website at yolocounty.org.

Hospital systems

Hospital systems operating in multiple counties receive their own allocations from the state.

Sutter Health in an emailed statement last week said it is receiving increased vaccine supply and is “scheduling thousands of vaccination appointments throughout Northern California.”

Sutter Health says it has administered more than 675,000 doses to date.

UC Davis Health is using the state’s My Turn website as well as its MyUCDavisHealth app to schedule vaccination appointments for UC Health patients as well as non-patients.

In an update Monday, the provider said it has administered more than 128,000 total doses “to patients, community members and employees” and is working to help organize clinics “that reach the medically underserved.”

The UC Davis Health website says the provider is not currently using J&J.

Kaiser Permanente is vaccinating patients in eligible groups, regardless of Kaiser membership.

Kaiser Permanente said in an update this week that it had administered about 1.9 million of the 1.92 million doses received at Northern California facilities, with close to 300,000 future appointments scheduled.

Dignity Health’s Mercy Medical Group has begun using My Turn to schedule appointments, and is working with the state and other partners to offer vaccines to eligible Californians.

Travis AFB, Northern California VA locations giving vaccines

Travis Air Force Base near Fairfield announced has opened appointments to “all individuals, 18 and older” at David Grant USAF Medical Center, offering the Moderna vaccine. Appointment registration is available at informatics-stage.health.mil/covax.

Veterans Affairs Northern California Health Care is now offering COVID-19 vaccinations to veterans and their families at 11 clinic locations: Auburn, Chico, Fairfield, Mare Island, Martinez, Mather, McClellan, Oakland, Redding, Yreka and Yuba City.

As of this week, all of the above except Yreka are offering walk-in clinics with no appointment necessary.

Clinic days and times vary by location. More details are available at northerncalifornia.va.gov.

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