MENDOCINO Co., 3/13/21 — Mendocino County Public Health started out Friday at the Caspar Community Center with only about 200 sign-ups and 750 vaccines to give. With Mendocino Coast Clinics, Adventist Health and local pharmacies also giving doses of the COVID-19 vaccine out on Friday on the coast, the county’s event came up short on appointment registrations when the event began — but managed to catch up.
By 4:45 p.m, hundreds more had signed up for the Caspar event and organizers were down to their last few shots to put in arms.
More than 80 people were on a waiting list, with people spread out socially distancing across the lawn. Many more had come and left their name, and then departed. Those on the waitlist will get contacted next time. In the end, no shots were wasted.
The vaccination event was both a success, in that no doses were wasted, and a scramble led by volunteers working in an atmosphere of fast-paced teamwork. The COVID-19 vaccine, perhaps the most coveted product on earth right now, still is a logistical challenge to distribute. With three different entities offering large numbers of vaccines on the Coast on a weekly basis now, organizers say they are having to guess how many people will show up that meet increasingly lowered requirements.
On Friday morning, the guess of how many people would sign up was low for the county event in Caspar, with Williams reporting on social media that hundreds of appointments remained open. Much effort on Friday was spent by organizers on getting enough qualified people to come. The day started with 65 being the youngest age allowed, and those in tiers 1A and 1B. By the time the call went out for more arms, the age had been lowered to 16, according to posts on Facebook made Friday afternoon.
The Caspar crowd arrived en masse after Supervisor Ted Williams and others (see here) put out the word by radio, text, and social media that there were many more spots available.
Williams told 5000 people on his text list and used Facebook posts, the Mendocino Community Network (MCN) Listserv and Twitter. Radio stations KZYX and KOZT were contacted to get more people out. The event was listed on the county’s vaccine event webpage, but no press or public announcement about the event was put out via Mendocino County Public Health or County of Mendocino media lists or social media. It is unclear whether residents were sent notifications via MyTurn, and some reported difficulty with the sign-ups, which are restricted by tiers.
Soon a huge line had formed that stretched more than 100 feet down the road in front of the Caspar Community Center, those at the event said, and the MyTurn website’s signups went from sparse to all gone.
“I don’t know how else to do it,” said Williams, in an interview. “‘I have had some pushback that this isn’t the role of a county supervisor.” He says he is advocating for his constituents, many of whom have roundly praised him for the efforts on social media. With this week’s giveaway by public health of 750 vaccines this week in Caspar resulting in no unused doses, Williams has requested a full block of the Pfizer vaccine for another coastal vaccine distribution event next week, which is 1070 doses, but which had not been scheduled for a time or place as of March 13.
Williams said one thing that makes logistics difficult is there have been about 60–80 no-shows at each event. “One thing people can do to help is come to the event if they make an appointment, or cancel the appointment,” said Williams.
The event in Caspar was initially planned for Wednesday, March 10, but rescheduled due to a forecast of rain. In social media posts, Williams said he had requested 1000 doses, but initially only had been assured of 500. It is unclear when the additional 250 doses were made available for the event.
The atmosphere was festive in Caspar. Joy, who declined to use her last name, was number 79 on the waitlist but having a good time. “This is the first time I have been around this many people in a long time. It’s like I’ve finally come to a real community event again,” Joy said.
More than 70 volunteers made the event work, keeping the big crowds moving briskly through a three step process. Greeters screened people on the lawn out front. Inside the Community Center, people went into the southern meeting room where paperwork was filled out at tables with big plexiglass screens. Next people got their shot in the northern meeting rooms, where tables were set up six feet apart. After that, they went and sat at tables set up out back for 15 minutes of observation, which is required for vaccinations in case of an adverse reaction.
Holly Newstead of the Anderson Valley Fire Department was one of the emergency personnel whose job it was to watch people after they got their shots for a reaction. She said there were no serious reactions all day.