By Renee Xiang,
PHOTO: Yolo County facilities are able to administer vaccines at a greater rate, but are held back by vaccine shortages.
Local public health workers are facing a bottleneck in vaccine rollout due to high demand and a shortage in supply.
In mid-January, California governor Gavin Newsom announced that counties could begin vaccinating anyone over the age of 65, expanding eligibility from the California Department of Public Health’s initial 1a tier, which included only health care workers and long-term care residents.
This expansion, however, was accompanied by a limited number of state-supplied doses of both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
In Yolo County, approximately 28,000 residents fall into the 65 or older category. Though supply from the state varies, the county is currently receiving approximately 1,000 doses of vaccine per week, according to Yolo County Public Health Officer Aimee Sisson.
“We absolutely have a limited supply and that’s primarily what is creating the slow pace at which we’re able to roll out the vaccine. The county’s actually administering pretty much all of the vaccine it gets every week by the end of the week, it’s just that we don’t have enough coming in,” she said.
Approximately the same number of doses that are sent to the county are also sent to local health care facilities such as Kaiser, Sutter, Dignity and UC Davis — on the whole, about 2,000 doses are arriving in the county each week.
“To get 28,000 people done at 1,000 doses from the county, 1,000 from the health system, it’s gonna take 14 weeks — three and a half months — to get through just 65 and older,” Sisson said.
Several counties in California have specifically reported a shortage in second doses, which need to be administered either three or four weeks after the first dose, depending on the vaccine manufacturer.
Yolo County receives separate first and second dose allocations from the California Department of Public Health, and is currently “only [using] second doses as second doses,” according to Sisson. Both doses of the vaccine are required to prevent severe illness from COVID-19.
In addition to the shortage, the county has encountered obstacles with distribution equity.
“Reaching underserved or hard to reach populations requires targeted efforts to ensure [everyone has] the opportunity to be vaccinated,” said Yolo County Emergency Services Manager Dana Carey.
To combat this issue, public health workers have specifically been hosting vaccine clinics in underserved areas and targeting outreach to specific populations to ensure all who are eligible receive vaccination.
Several appointment-based drive-thru vaccination clinics take place each week for the entire 65 and up population, but according to Carey, “available appointments for vaccine clinics fill up shortly after they are released.”
Under the new Biden administration, there has been a push to increase vaccine production on a federal level. Sisson is hopeful that the “vaccine rollout will move more quickly as supply increases.” The county currently has all the faculties needed to administer vaccinations at a much higher rate.
“If we had more doses, we could give more doses. We have lots of volunteers, we have a good drive-thru vaccination model, we could run 1,000 people a day through a site if we had 1,000 doses a day, but we don’t,” Sisson said.