Breanna Hardy">

Vaccination photo by Breanna Hardy

published on February 12, 2021 - 2:54 PM
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After asking for more vaccines, Fresno County got them – both on the federal and local levels. This comes on the tails of Fresno County passing its 100,000 dose benchmark.

Joe Prado, community division manager for the Fresno County Department of Public Health (FCDPH), announced that Fresno County hit 100,000 doses administered – a feat made possible through collaboration with community members, volunteers and partnerships.

“There’s been a lot learned in these past 45 days or so to get to 100,000 doses,” Prado said.

Data shows it’s about 80% first doses and 20% second doses administered out of the 100,000.  

And as the county enters a new week, CVS Pharmacies and Rite Aid will receive the vaccine next week. The doses are coming directly from the federal allocation.

“You’re slowly seeing this increased capacity now at the national pharmacy level as well, which is a huge plus to have them here in Fresno County,” Prado said.

Although progress is being made by offering federal pharmaceutical allocation, demand is still outpacing supply on a national level.

Each Rite Aid store will begin with 100 doses per store chosen for allocation, but the federal allocation spreads between five states and two major cities, Philadelphia and New York City.

Along with federal sites, Gaston Middle School in Fresno will serve as a local vaccination site. It’s offering a soft launch next Thursday and Friday. This site will be operated by the African American Coalition, which will help reach underserved communities and gain trust of the African American community. The site will begin vaccinating those 65 years and older.

The County’s motivation is to vaccinate through an equity lens, prioritizing underserved populations.

Sierra Pacific Orthopedic will also operate a mobile vaccination clinic to target the populations in the foothills.

The OptumServe vaccine site, a site transitioned from testing to vaccinating, will operate at Reedley College beginning next week. However, the official date is yet to be determined. It will offer the Moderna vaccine.

“The plan is to do a soft launch with about 100 vaccines and then move to almost 420 vaccines per day right at that Reedley College site,” Vohra said.

They will require individuals to sign up for their first and second doses at the same time, so second dose appointments are already locked in place four weeks after receiving the first.

The county has received a total of 132,000 doses, with a continued higher volume of doses – 18,000 – allotted for next week. This is following a week of receiving 19,000 when before that, the average was just 8,000.

“We’re reaching out to our partners and seeing who’s ready for vaccine, and to take some more of the doses,” Prado said.

The caveat is that these doses have to be administered within seven days of receipt, per state guidance.

Vohra said that while vaccinations are a hot topic, testing cannot fall by the wayside.

Health officials in Fresno County are looking toward Tuesday to see whether the county can move out of the purple tier, which is strongly determined by the amount of testing. 

Among other things, that would allow for indoor dining.

The way the blueprint for a safer economy works has some fine print. The state has an average or median testing rate previously set across all counties.

If a county is above that average for testing, “We get extra credit and our case rate comes down. If we’re below that average then we get docked and our case rate actually gets pushed up a little bit,” said Dr. Rais Vohra, FCDPH interim health officer.

To move toward the red tier, Vohra is encouraging people to get tested.

“It’s still a very important component and a very important layer of safety as we try to drive down the community case rate,” he said.

While no new variants have been detected in Fresno County, that doesn’t mean there are none. The county has requested help from the state to conduct genomic testing, which could reveal the amount of variants.

Places in the Bay Area with accessibility to Stanford University-run labs have more knowledge about variants in surrounding counties than smaller counties with no labs.

Vohra said the whole state is undertesting for variants.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in Fresno Wednesday that there are two detected South African variants in Alameda and Santa Clara counties.

Officials know the variants in general are more contagious, but lack of knowledge of those variants in the community could lead to a spring surge.  

The county has requested the state sample 1% of tests for surveillance of these potential variants.

“What we really want to know is not only whether the variants are there, but how common are they relative to all of the other people that are Covid positive. And I don’t see that data coming out of anywhere in California,” Vohra said. “So the state has a lot more work to do in terms of really tracking down meaningful statistics and epidemiology related to these variants.”

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