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Central Coast counties face challenges as vaccine efforts ramp up

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MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif. (KION) Across the Central Coast, counties are facing staffing and distribution challenges as vaccine efforts ramp up in California.

"The biggest challenges we have going forward is finding people to do this. The public health department in Santa Cruz County consists of two physicians and five public health nurses so you can imagine we don't have the staff to do this and we need some outside help," Santa Cruz Deputy Health Officer Dr. David Ghilarducci said.

He adds that the department is asking for help from the federal government.

“We are looking for some kind of turn key solution where we have a vaccination team actually come to the county and help be able to do this. This is going to become even more important as we get into phase two and three because as you go into each phase, they get progressively bigger,” Ghilarducci said.

Santa Cruz and San Benito counties are about 2/3 of the way through
Phase 1A, which makes the vaccine available to health care workers, dentists and paramedics/EMTs. Next comes phase 1B, which opens up the vaccine to people 75 and older and frontline workers in education, food and agriculture and emergency services sectors. As the scale increases, Dr. Ghilarducci said health departments will have to get enough staff and space to vaccinate.

The next phase would allow people 75 and older and frontline workers in
education, food and agriculture and emergency services to get the vaccine.

He said the department is considering using the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds and Flea Market in Soquel as potential drive-through
vaccine distribution sites.

“We need large parking spaces for this because we’ll have lots of cars
coming through and then they have to sit for 15-30 minutes afterwards and be monitored just in case there’s any kind of allergic reaction,” Ghilarducci said.

Over in Monterey County, the health department is holding clinics to move through Phase 1A vaccines, but they're reporting that some residents who are not health care providers are scheduling vaccine clinic appointments after health care workers shared the invitations with family and friends, which could slow down the process.

"When individuals who are not health care providers use up vaccine clinic appointments, it slows down the process and will take Monterey County longer to get to additional phases and tiers in California’s COVID-19 Vaccine Plan," Spokesperson Karen Smith said in an email.

The health department shares that information with employers to pass along to staff.

Dr. Ghilarducci said while his health department wants to vaccinate as many people as possible, they also want to make sure those who are the most vulnerable don’t get denied vaccine because lower risk people are able to get it before them.

“Ultimately, at some point this is going to have to be on the honors system.
We won’t have a way of verifying if you’re an ag worker or you fit in some
other category. We're not going to ask for a teacher's identification. We will probably ask people to attest that you belong to a group,” he said.

Monterey County has received more than 17,075 vaccines, Santa Cruz County 10,450 and San Benito County 1,300.

“In the United States at least, our only path out of this is going to be
through vaccination,” Ghilarducci said.

He also told KION they are not wasting any doses and have, at times, opened up the vaccine to people in lower tiers of Phase 1A if they have enough at clincis.

The vaccine is still not open to the general public at this time.

The Monterey County Health Department says a portal should be up this week where people can sign up for information and express interest in getting the vaccine.

Courtesy: Monterey County Health Department

For information about COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Monterey County, click here: www.mtyhd.org/covidvaccine

Coronavirus / Health / Monterey County / San Benito County / Santa Cruz County

Elisha Machado

Elisha Machado is a weekend anchor and multi-media journalist at KION News Channel 5/46.

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