Despite vaccine shipments into San Mateo County being delayed, clinics at the San Mateo County Event Center will continue this week using borrowed doses, said county health officials.
“It’s a moment to be grateful and to celebrate even if it's not everyone who deserves a vaccine this minute,” said Nancy Magee, superintendent of San Mateo County Office of Education.
Roughly 3,200 Pfizer Inc. doses have been sourced from local health care providers to vaccinate approximately 900 law enforcement personnel on Monday and about 2,300 educators on Wednesday, said Dr. Anand Chabra, the section chief of COVID-19 mass vaccination and medical director of Family Health Services.
Both clinics will be held at the San Mateo County Event Center. Priority lists were developed in partnerships between the county, the Office of Education, the Sheriff’s Office and local police departments, said Preston Merchant, spokesman for San Mateo County Health.
Magee said school districts created their own eligibility lists, focusing on employees who work in person and come in contact with students or the community. With 10 public school districts open for in-person learning, she estimates that up to 5,000 school employees are in the first priority group to be vaccinated, including teachers, bus drivers, food service workers, yard duty supervisors and others.
Noting supply constraints, Magee said it will likely take a few months to vaccinate the entire population of school employees while vaccinating other priority sectors. County officials announced Feb. 12 that vaccine eligibility through county-hosted clinics would be extended to Phase 1B priority work sectors identified by the state, including education and child care workers, law enforcement, retail staff and food industry employees. Officials estimate the there are more than 37,000 in those categories.
Access to vaccines should not be a prerequisite for opening schools though, said Magee. Using a four-pillar recovery plan for returning to school, she said schools are safe places with or without vaccines and highlighted students’ needs.
“There are lots of things we don’t have control over but what we do need to keep in mind is we have children that really need us to be attending to their needs,” she said. “We do have control over keeping students’ needs at the center of our thinking.”
Monday’s vaccination clinic for law enforcement came as a relief, said Pacifica Police Chief Dan Steidle, also the president of the San Mateo County Police Chiefs and Sheriff Association. Before the announcement, officers would fall into the next priority tier, and the association addressed a letter to Chief of Health Louise Rogers, making its case for why nonmedical law enforcement officers should be a priority for inoculation.
About 2,100 law enforcement personnel now qualify for a vaccine, said Chabra. Despite feeling officers should have been vaccinated alongside health care workers and paramedics, including firefighters, Steidle expressed appreciation for doses now being made available to law enforcement personnel.
“I and the association were very pleased that our personnel were able to be vaccinated,” said Steidle. “Our officers are contacting people on a daily basis and it’s not always possible to follow safety guidelines. … One of our main concerns other than transmission was if the virus started spreading through our departments and we didn’t have enough officers in the streets. Getting officers vaccinated lessens those concerns that would occur.”
This week’s clinics were able to move forward despite a notice from the California Department of Public Health officials that a shipment of 14,200 Moderna vaccines en route to San Mateo County had been held up by extreme weather conditions devastating parts of the country. The shipment would provide 10,000 first doses and 4,200 second doses.
The CDPH informed officials Monday two separate shipments making up the 14,200 Moderna doses are expected to arrive by Tuesday, Feb. 23, said Merchant. Doses will go toward additional clinics for grocery and agricultural workers later this week “assuming the Moderna shipment arrives,” said Chabra’s statement.
Approximately 1,500 of the doses will also go toward two vaccine clinics being hosted in Half Moon Bay and Daly City this week, said Merchant. The clinics are for preidentified residents who will be contacted directly to make an appointment, according to a press release.
Additionally, officials and community partners are working to develop a pilot field vaccination program, aiming to vaccinate up to 300 agricultural workers at their workplace, said the press release.
To date, more than 130,200 San Mateo County residents have been vaccinated and 45,149 have received both their first and second doses. With 642,340 residents ages 16 and older eligible for the vaccine, about 20% of the population has been vaccinated, according to the county’s COVID-19 vaccination dashboard.
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