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'Give us more vaccine' | Why supply is slowing the vaccination effort in Stanislaus County

From transitioning vaccination categories to hosting mobile clinics, vaccine supply is the key factor in Stanislaus County.

STANISLAUS COUNTY, Calif. — Update: 

As vaccinations for thousands of seniors continue, some teachers and agriculture workers in Stanislaus County could soon be joining them.

On Sunday, Stanislaus County Supervisor Vito Chiesa confirmed that some teachers and agriculture workers would be eligible for vaccinations starting the week of Feb. 22.

The county was among the first to start vaccinating their seniors after Governor Gavin Newsom opened up access to vaccinations for that populations. However, vaccine supplies are limited and have been part of the reason that the county had yet to push into the categories before this time.

“The problem is we still receive our vaccine allocation based on our 65 and over population, which means we aren’t getting enough vaccine for our county to move into those categories,” Sheriff Jeff Dirkse told ABC10 on Wednesday.

Earlier this week several Central Valley congressmen sent a letter to the governor demanding a fair share of the vaccine.

“It’s completely unacceptable that the Valley is getting half as many vaccines as other parts of the state,” said Congressman Harder. “We’ve been left behind for too long, and I’ve written to the state demanding we get our fair share.”

Original story:

After being asked to stay at home for nearly a year, thousands of Stanislaus County seniors are getting vaccinated as they take another step toward normalcy.

Out of the thousands of stories, each vaccination brings, one that stuck out to Sheriff Jeff Dirkse was of a grandmother who had two grandchildren born during the pandemic.

“She had not seen or held either one of them," Dirkse said. "She’s just ecstatic that now with the vaccine that now she could, once her immunity built up, go see her new grandchildren.”

Along with being sheriff, Dirkse also acts as the head for Emergency Services as the county addresses the pandemic and vaccine rollout. He said those stories are why they've been pushing to get the vaccine out and into people's arms.

"We realize there are thousands of people in our community who have done the right thing," he said. "They’ve done what they can to slow the spread."

For him, the vaccine is what will ultimately put a stop to the pandemic. That being said, vaccine supply remains a lingering issue for the county to contend with.

RELATED: ‘It’s an emergency, and we need to treat it like that’ | Stanislaus County’s vaccine rollout, explained

The state has opened up vaccinations for teachers and agriculture workers, but, there's not a lot of vaccine to go around in Stanislaus County.

“The problem is we still receive our vaccine allocation based on our 65 and over population, which means we aren’t getting enough vaccine for our county to move into those categories,” Dirkse said.

On Sunday, Stanislaus County Supervisor Vito Chiesa said teachers and agriculture workers would be getting vaccinations starting the week of Feb. 22. These workers are part of Phase 1B in the state's vaccine rollout plan. In a Tuesday Board of Supervisor's meeting, county officials said the scope of Phase 1B would equal about 1/4 of the county's population. 

Supply remains an issue as the county moves forward, not just with vaccination categories but also with scheduling for their clinics.

The number of 1st doses for the week of Feb. 8 was dramatically reduced compared to previous weeks. Most scheduled days at the county clinics are offering second doses only. 

The shift in scheduling was attributed to a one-time allocation of 4,000 Moderna vaccines that didn’t have a guaranteed second dose.

“What has slowed down our first dose deliveries is we have had to hold 4,000 doses to prepare for second doses,” Dirkse said. 

He added that the vaccine supply was the reason first doses have slowed down in the past week, but he expects the schedule to shift back to normal by the end of this week or next week.

While there is a slow down on the first dose, the goal is still zero vaccine inventory by the end of the week. Dirkse said upwards of 95% of first doses are going out every week, and that county teams visit community partners to make sure any unused vaccine still gets put to use.

The mainstays for the vaccination effort are the mass clinics at Stanislaus State University, Modesto Centre Plaza, and Gladys Lemmons Senior Community Center in Oakdale. However, a new pilot project is hoping to make strides in equity and accessibility with a mobile vaccination clinic.

“We realize that there are some folks that they have to work, maybe they lack transportation, whatever the case may be,” Dirkse said. “Our intention is to go to them so that they have the opportunity to get the vaccine as well.”

The pilot clinic took place at the King-Kennedy Center in west Modesto. It was equipped with enough supply for 200 vaccinations, but the clinic ultimately gave out 84.

Vaccine hesitancy was among the reasons for the low number, according to Dirkse, but the county is still trying to piece together whether this was a unique occurrence in that community.

RELATED: With Latino COVID-19 cases a problem for Stanislaus County, vaccine education starts now

The other factor was timing. He said the clinic was done on short notice, so people might not have known the option was available.

“We’re evaluating all that, which is why did a pilot, so we know where the strengths and weaknesses are,” Dirkse said.

As far as doing more of the mobile clinics, new locations are in the works, but, again, vaccine supply will be an obstacle to overcome as they hold them.

Citing the Los Angeles Times vaccination tracker, Congressman Josh Harder said Stanislaus and neighboring San Joaquin County have fallen behind others in vaccinations by population. 

The two counties have administered about 10,000 doses per 100,000 residents while counties like Marin and Napa have administered almost 20,000 doses per 100,000 residents.

Harder, along with other Central Valley representatives Rep. David Valadao, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, Rep. Jim Costa, and Rep. Devin Nunes sent a letter to the governor calling out the discrepancy.

"Vaccine distribution has been severely limited in the Central Valley communities where it is needed most," the congressmen said in the letter. "There are simply not enough vaccines being shipped and distributed to our rural communities, yet key resources are being directed to areas of the state that already have far better vaccination rates than the Valley."

The letter also called for additional sites and resources for the Central Valley.

“It’s completely unacceptable that the Valley is getting half as many vaccines as other parts of the state,” said Congressman Harder. “We’ve been left behind for too long, and I’ve written to the state demanding we get our fair share.”

Sheriff Dirkse echoed a similar sentiment but with some key differences. He said Stanislaus County doesn't need a mass clinic, because they already have the capacity to reach 40,000 vaccinations a week. 

“Our request would be that the state do a couple of things: number one, stop changing the plan… so that we can focus on getting vaccine into people’s arms," he said. "We have a plan. We need vaccine and we can get it into arms. Don’t waste resources, at least in Stanislaus County, on building more clinics. Give us more vaccine.”

For more information on vaccines in Stanislaus County along with clinic hours and information on providers that can provide an appointment visit the county website HERE. For regular updates from the county, visit the StanEmergency Facebook page.

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