In visit to Arvin, Gov. Gavin Newsom says Kern County and Central Valley will receive greater allotment of COVID-19 vaccines

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Sam Morgen, The Bakersfield Californian
·3 min read
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Feb. 22—Kern County and the Central Valley will be receiving larger portions of the COVID-19 vaccine on an ongoing basis, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced during a stop in Arvin on Monday.

Moving forward, Kern will be receiving 78% more vaccines than it has been, while the Central Valley as a whole will receive 58% more.

That equates to 14,850 vaccine doses arriving in Kern County by the end of this week.

"I am deeply mindful that that's not nearly enough," Newsom told reporters and local officials gathered at the Arvin Veteran's Hall. "That's the constraint that we're under. We're building out a system whose only fundamental constraint is supply. So supply is the issue. It's a national issue and we're going to work hard to overcome it."

Local leaders have pushed hard for a bigger slice of the state's vaccine pie. During a press conference last week, Kern County Chief Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop urged Newsom to send more vaccines to the county.

On Monday, Bakersfield Mayor Karen Goh took the opportunity to tell the governor directly that Kern County has the capability to vaccinate far more people each day than it is at the moment. She brought up the disproportionate number of Kern County residents who die from complications related to COVID.

"So when you think about the comorbidities compounded with COVID, we really really need your help," she said before welcoming Newsom to the podium.

The governor's announcement comes as the state is expanding vaccination eligibility in Kern County to include agriculture, food, education, child care and emergency service workers. By stopping in Arvin — one of 11 new mobile vaccination clinics across the Central Valley the state is creating in partnership with OptumServe to target hard-to-reach areas — Newsom hoped to highlight the equity and thoroughness of the state's vaccine plan.

"I'm not some guy from San Francisco that doesn't give a damn about the valley. I said, 'I'm not going to let that happen,'" Newsom said. "I know we're not perfect and I know we're not doing everything, but I'm trying to bridge that, and I really have."

In addition to the increased vaccine allotment, Newsom announced that 34,000 doses that had been stored in a large pharmacy elsewhere in the state were being sent to the Central Valley, where the hope is that they will be more quickly and efficiently distributed.

Speaking from the veteran's hall, which will soon have the capacity to vaccinate 420 people per day, both local and state leaders pointed to the hope that the vaccination process will overcome some early hurdles to return life to normalcy as quickly as possible.

Monday was the first day Kern residents had access to, a new website that will eventually be used for vaccine appointments across the state. But on Monday, only appointments to Bakersfield's fairgrounds were available, and some eligible sectors like food and agriculture workers could not sign up using the site.

Newsom equated the difficulties in signing up using the site to road bumps that will be worked out as the state goes through the "major transition" of setting up MyTurn for all California residents.

"This summer, you're going to see exponential increase in availability. That's why we've got to be prepared," he said. "And that's why we want to get everybody on not just a notification platform, MyTurn, but a scheduling platform that has an end-to-end component so there's total transparency."

In response to the governor's visit, the Kern County Administrative Office said in a statement that the county was grateful for the additional vaccines, yet more could be done.

"We have the ability to distribute 45,000 COVID-19 vaccines per week, and hope the State continues to increase its allotment to Kern County," the statement read. "Our deepest hope is all members of our community have access to this resource as soon as possible."

You can reach Sam Morgen at 661-395-7415. You may also follow him on Twitter @smorgenTBC.