Written by Breanna Hardy
Ultimately, the states decide what industries to prioritize when it comes to getting the Covid-19 vaccine, but officials with the Fresno County Public Health Department say the area has been underrepresented in the statewide allocation.
The desire for vaccinations is there, but the doses are not. Fresno County originally received less doses for the health care worker bracket because there are less health care workers in Fresno County per capita than most other large counties in the state. But even then, that only leaves the county with a 2.2% vaccination rate.
As of Feb. 16, the health care boundary is removed for vaccinations. Once health care workers have all been inoculated, it will allow for those 65 years and older. It’s a broader category, but the county will actually receive fewer doses. The vaccination rate will be brought down to 2.09% if the state does not allocate more doses to Fresno County.
Joe Prado, community health division manager, said Fresno County has a goal of giving 600,000 vaccinations by Aug. 1, but at the rate vaccines are being administered by the state, the county won’t meet the goal.
The county currently receives 8,000 doses on a week-to-week basis, but that would need to significantly increase to upwards of 60,000 doses a week.
“The reality is the supply chain just isn’t there,” said Prado.
The longer the delay in getting vaccinations to the county, the more doses it will need to make up for the lack of supply in early 2021.
The FCPHD is also vaccinating with an eye toward equity. They are aware that administering via online sign ups for vaccinations could hinder those in underserved communities from making an appointment if they’re lacking internet connection.
“Place does matter. Accessibility does matter,” Prado said.
Even with CVS Pharmacies receiving vaccine doses, they are just another avenue through which the public can receive a vaccine, but the vaccine volume remains the same for the county.
The CVS vaccine doses are not additives to the county’s vaccine allocation. They are simply different doors through which the public can access the vaccine.
“We’re 6,000 square miles, so I’d love to be able to speak into which CVSs get it, and really evaluate that,” Prado said. “We evaluate where we place doses, and we do it through an equity lens.”
In Fresno County, Sierra Pacific Orthopedic Center and the Fresno Fairgrounds are administering vaccines as doses become available. The county currently offers second doses to health care workers and those 75 years and older.
They offered a pilot program in which the FCPHD reserved 3,000 vaccinations for food and agricultural workers. The county partnered with United Health Centers.
Food and agricultural workers are not as hesitant to take the vaccine as the general public; the county health officials are seeing a 90% return rate for second doses among food and agricultural workers.
Prado said he knows the African American community is underrepresented in the community for inoculations, and they are working with the African American Coalition in Fresno to target communities to make sure they are represented.
“It’s an education campaign as well,” Prado said.
He encourages people to be the voice of safety for their friends and family. Prado says trusted peers’ experiences will advocate more than a social media ad could.
“Seeing the hard numbers there really does sting because it just confirms what we’re already feeling on the ground here – that we’re not getting enough vaccines,” said Dr. Rais Vohra, interim health officer for Fresno County Department of Public Health.
County health officials continue to communicate the need to state officials for more vaccinations and advocate for its ability to administer vaccines effectively and on a large scale.