With a surplus of COVID-19 vaccines, San Mateo County officials encouraged all eligible residents to get vaccinated as they prepare for appointments to soon open up to children ages 12 to 15.

“There is no waiting. This is the time to get vaccinated,” County Manager Mike Callagy said during a remote press briefing Tuesday.

The county’s roughly 40,000 teens will likely be granted access to Pfizer vaccines as early as next week following approval from the Western State Scientific Review Committee, Callagy said. The committee is made up of scientists and experts on immunizations and is tasked with reviewing the efficacy of any vaccine granted federal approval.

Once granted, teens will be eligible to attend one of two mass vaccination events at the San Mateo County Event Center on Tuesday, May 18, and Wednesday, May 19.

County officials also intend on working with the Office of Education, district superintendents and school communities to identify best and trusted paths for getting children vaccinated.

Two school campuses currently provide space for regular vaccination clinics, Cesar Chavez Middle School in East Palo Alto and San Mateo High School, and additional school-based vaccination clinics could be added in the future, Deputy Chief of Health Srija Srinivasan said.

“We want to keep learning what are the best ways for reaching young people and their families,” Srinivasan said.

A parental or guardian consent process for accessing vaccine appointments for teens is built into the state’s MyTurn booking platform, Srinivasan said, noting pediatricians also have experience working with parents on informed consent.

With the expansion of vaccine eligibility to children, Srinivasan said officials hope young people can help encourage their family members to also get vaccinated.

After peaking in April, vaccinations have trailed slightly with only about 300 doses having been administered at the county’s last mass vaccination event, Callagy said.

Srinivasan attributed the dip to residents still managing through various access barriers like finding child care and work schedules. She also suggested some residents could be seeking additional information from their doctors or are waiting to observe how others respond to the vaccine.

Officials expected a lull would arise after those most eager residents accessed vaccinations through various paths, Srinivasan said.

“We do think this next phase will take longer to get to the 24% who have not availed themselves of the vaccine yet,” Srinivasan said.

To date, 76.6% of San Mateo County residents ages 16 and older have received at least one vaccine dose. Nearly 73% have completed the full vaccine series.

Preston Merchant, County Health spokesperson, said the county has held more Pfizer clinics due to eligibility being open to a broader age range than the other products. The public’s interest also appears stronger for the Pfizer product, he noted, but demand is high for Moderna and Johnson and Johnson doses.

Callagy doubled down on the safety of all vaccines currently available and encouraged residents to get vaccinated, particularly given the prevalence of new more contagious strains.

“Even though we are opening and more people are going back to work we have not beat COVID-19,” Callagy said. “It’s still out there.”

Callagy attributed the county’s move into the state’s least restrictive yellow tier, effective Wednesday, to residents getting vaccinated and following safety guidelines like wearing a mask and social distancing.

He encouraged residents to follow the “social contract” by continuing to wear face coverings around others despite local orders regarding mask-wearing having been lifted yesterday.

Additionally, Callagy noted financial support is still available to residents through the San Mateo County Emergency Rental Assistance Program. Of the $47 million of state funds granted to the program, less than half has been expended so far and if not spent will be reclaimed by the state. Callagy said the state is poised to make adjustments to the program to make it more appealing to landlords who are currently being asked to forgive 20% of owed back rent.

“That may be changing and we’re anxiously awaiting news from the governor’s office to see if that does in fact change to make it more inviting to the landlords,” Callagy said. “To me, it’s a no-brainer.”

Visit the county’s website at smchealth.org/coronavirus for more information on vaccine appointments and health recommendations. Visit smcgov.org/san-mateo-county-emergency-rental-assistance-program for more information about the rental assistance program.


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