SACRAMENTO, Calif. — As Sacramento County heads into a new vaccine delivery system with Blue Shield, they're hoping the transition will help them with their goals, specifically getting vaccine into people's arms.
That being said, there's still a lot for the county to learn about the system, but according to Dr. Olivia Kasirye, health officer for the county, the transition isn't something that the average vaccine seeker should worry about.
“We’re hoping that it will not make a difference," Dr. Kasirye said. "As I mentioned, the most important thing is for Sacramento County to get the doses and have the opportunity to work with our partners both health care as well as community-based agencies to be able to set up these clinics.”
Onboarding for the new system starts on Monday, but just like Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties the week before, Sacramento County doesn't know much about what they're getting from the transition. The conversations with Blue Shield are still ongoing, but Dr. Kasirye said the county is emphasizing their concerns about the number of doses they're getting and the need for transparency and consistency with allocations.
“We’re still learning how the process is going to work," Kasirye said. "It’s not like a switch that came once the date came up. It’s more of a process of us telling them how we do things, how they run vaccinations, and who the important partners are.”
The transition is only one of the new things coming to the county. Here is a look at some of the coming changes.
Johnson & Johnson
5,500 Johnson & Johnson vaccines are heading to Sacramento County. It's a single-dose coronavirus vaccine that Dr. Kasirye said will be a great tool for hard to reach communities that move around a lot and for people who are bound to their homes. The single-dose vaccine removes the challenge of setting up dates for a second round of doses that the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines would require.
"(There's) a lot of ways that we can use it and so we are in the process of doing outreach, answering questions about the safety and making sure that people are comfortable being able to receive it," Dr. Kasirye said.
The state's vaccine appointment site is part of the bundle with the Blue Shield rollout, but it won't be implemented right away, according to Kasirye.
She said the county has run a few clinics with the MyTurn system, but they're not quite ready to make the full transition. Part of the reason has to do with controlling who has access to the links so they can focus on targeted areas.
"We're not at that point where we can turn everything over because of the concerns about being able to have that control and making sure that the people who get the appointments are the people that we are targeting," Kasirye said.
Similar hesitations about transition to MyTurn have been shared in Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties, which have already developed their own strategies.
Red Tier for Sacramento County?
Kasirye said that she's hopeful Sacramento County would see the red coronavirus tier in the next couple weeks.
One of the big factors at play would be the state's announcement that the threshold for the red tier could be moved to 10 cases per 100,000 instead of 7 cases per 100,000. That would happen if the state reaches 2 million vaccinations in vulnerable populations within certain zip codes. If that happens, it would accelerate the county's move into the red tier.
“I’m hoping that, within the next couple of weeks, we’ll be able to do that,” Kasirye said.
Usually, tier movement depends on testing, and Sacramento's testing sites are not testing at capacity, Kasirye said. To change tiers, the county needs two things, more tests and more vaccine.
“We want to get the vaccine and be able to move on to the red tier because that will open schools, that will open up businesses,” she said.
Food and Agriculture worker vaccinations
Food and agriculture worker vaccinations start Monday. Despite being part of Phase 1B, Sacramento County didn't allow vaccinations for this sector due to supply and appointment issues.
“We wanted to make sure we gave enough opportunity for each of the sectors. We’re at that point now where we are ready to start rolling it out to the food and ag sector,” Kasirye said.
More information on vaccine clinics in Sacramento County can be found HERE.