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Monterey County hopeful a state change to vaccine allocation will bring more doses

Administering the COVID-19 vaccine

SALINAS, Calif. (KION)

Monterey County is hopeful a change to how California allocates precious doses of the COVID-19 vaccine will lead to an increase locally. .

Monterey County Public Health Officer Dr. Edward Moreno made the announcement to reporters on a weekly Wednesday media call. He said the state's (at that point) possible changes include a move away from allocation based on population alone, and towards the number of people in each county eligible for the vaccine.

A Monterey County spokesperson said on Thursday that the state decided to move forward with this vaccine change, and KION confirmed the update with the California Department of Public Health (KION).

California is currently in "Phase 1B" of the vaccine rollout, which includes people 65 and older, and workers in education, child care, emergency services, and food and agriculture. The agricultural industry is the largest in Monterey County, so this change is expected to increase the number of local doses.

Political and community leaders are also pushing for a special supply of vaccine doses for farmworkers, including the more than 10,000 expected to starting arriving in March, along with a greater emphasis on communities most greatly impacted by the pandemic.

The new allocation formula takes effect for the "February 18th allocation period," the county said in a statement.

Moreno adds the state could also change the order for HOW the vaccine is divided up.

Right now, before deciding county allocation, the California sets doses aside for multi-county entities (MCE), like Kaiser or Dignity. Monterey County leaders have tried to confirm this with the state, but they believe a county with an MCE does not lose any of their population-based doses.

A spokesperson for the Monterey County Health Department tells KION Thursday night that the new formula will put county doses first, with MCE allocations after. However, they believe counties that contain an MCE will still receive their full allocation of doses.

Why does this matter? Monterey County is the largest in the state WITHOUT an MCE that distributes the vaccine to the public (the state considers the Soledad prisons an MCE).

"Hopefully [we will] get some communication from the state," Moreno said. "I hope that we would benefit from that. Since we don’t have an MCE, we would be getting a greater portion of the overall allocation.”

Since Monterey County's hospitals and medical offices aren't multi-county entities, just about all doses that aren't federal come from the county's supply. The county believes this leaves them with an inequitable number of doses. State-published data shows that could be the case. Monterey County trails three smaller counties (Placer, Marin and Santa Cruz) in total vaccines administered. They all have two MCEs.

A statewide look shows a trend. According to the Los Angeles Times' "vaccinations by county" chart, Monterey County is 43rd out of 58 counties for "doses administered per 100,000 people." San Benito County, who also doesn't have an MCE, is 46th. Santa Cruz County, which has Sutter and Dignity, ranks 8th.

KION found there are 17 counties without a multi-county healthcare entity, outside of the CDCR. Nine of those 17 counties rank in the bottom 16 for shots per 100,000 people.

That isn't to say there aren't outliers. Among the 36 counties with at least 100,000 people, Butte County has the 9th highest vaccination rate despite zero MCEs. El Dorado County ranks 16th.

In late January, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors sent a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom requesting more information on how doses are allocated. San Benito County has also requested more vaccine doses due to suspected inequity.

Monterey County / San Benito County / Santa Cruz County / Top Stories

Aaron Groff

Aaron Groff is an evening co-anchor at KION News Channel 5/46.

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