Editor’s note: Dr. William Miller, chief of staff at the Adventist Health Mendocino Coast Hospital, is writing weekly reports concerning the COVID-19 situation on the Mendocino Coast. We are pleased to be running his health column, with details on the medical fight against the pandemic.
The question that is on everyone’s mind right now seems to be, “When is the vaccine going to be made available to the general public?” We are now moving from the very early phase, which was vaccinating front line health care workers and nursing homes to now include people over the age of 75 who have health conditions that put them at highest risk. This is a big step forward. Making it fully available to all of the general public is still some months away, as the roll out continues to follow the tiered system recommended by the CDC and mandated by the State. This system is designed to give priority to those who are most likely to be exposed, who are at high risk because of age or health issues and who are critical persons such as health care workers and first responders.
The Mendocino Health Department has received 1,800 additional doses this week, plus about another 1,000 doses to be used as booster shots for those who already received the vaccine. It is the goal to give all of these shots within the next 7 days. About 300 of these will be given through each of the two health clinics on the Coast, Mendocino Coast Clinic (MCC) in Ft. Bragg and Redwoods Coast Medical Services (RCMS) in Gualala, for a total of about 600 doses. Additionally, there will be three vaccination clinics open in Ukiah. Keep in mind that these vaccines are still for people who are in the tier 1A groups which include fire fighters, law enforcement, food service workers, in-home support workers, and others in the higher risk categories. General public vaccination is coming later, but soon. The County has established a website that gives more information: https://www.mendocinocounty.org/community/novel-coronavirus/covid-19-vaccinations And they also have a hotline number to call: 707-472-2663.
The vaccine is being distributed to communities around the state through different avenues. As a result, some may be getting the vaccine sooner than others. It is important to understand that regardless, it is all being administered following a tiered system which is described at the website listed above. For example, each hospital system in the state received an allocation of doses to be administered to their own health care employees. Adventist Health, Sutter and Keiser all received these allocations. Adventist Health, in turn, distributed these to its facilities and our three hospitals in Mendocino County got about 1,000 doses which have all been given. Meanwhile, distribution to nursing homes is being done through CVS and Safeway pharmacies. Public distribution is through public health departments.
A common misconception seems to be that since our hospital staff received their doses at the start, then that means that the hospital is responsible for distributing the vaccine to other people or that we have some say in how the distribution is being done. This is not the case. However, we will work with the health department and the community clinics, like MCC, to help give the vaccine by lending nursing staff and the like to this important community effort.
At some point, hopefully in the very near future, the vaccine will become available to all clinics and doctor’s offices for them to administer to their patients. As of this writing, much is still in flux. The Health Department, under the direction of Dr. Andy Coren, is working hard to get everything in place so that once we start receiving larger allocations of the vaccine, it will be given to people in our County following a process that goes smoothly and also ensures it is done in an ethical and fair fashion within the guidelines given to us by the State.