An ambitious plan to vaccinate up to 7,000 residents a day against the COVID-19 virus was presented by county health officials earlier this week.
“We see the vaccine effort as the highest priority for Contra Costa County,” said Anna Roth, director at Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS). “There is nothing that we’re focused more on right now than vaccinating our residents from COVID-19 quickly, safely and efficiently. We feel the public’s urgency, and we share that urgency.”
CCHS representatives said they hope to vaccinate 725,000 county residents within six months. That is the number of vaccinated individuals necessary to reach community resistance to the novel coronavirus and stop the spread of the disease. To date, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to more than 48,000 infections in the county and 392 deaths while also interrupting schooling and wreaking havoc on every level of the economy.
“We are at the beginning of the biggest public health immunization campaign in history, and it’s going to take time,” CCHS Director Anna Roth said. “At some point, everyone who wants a COVID vaccine will be able to get one. While we aren’t there yet, making vaccines available to everyone is our top priority.”
Eligibility to receive a vaccine is determined according to a plan developed by the California Department of Public Health. In that plan, there are four phases identified as 1A, 1B, 1C and 2, and there can be multiple tiers within each phase. The county, which administered its first vaccine Dec. 15, is currently vaccinating individuals in all three tiers of Phase 1A. That phase includes healthcare workers as well as residents and employees of long-term care facilities.
The county is currently preparing to vaccinate those in Phase 1B - Tier 1 including residents over 75 years of age and essential workers in education, childcare, emergency services, and food and agriculture. Phase 1B - Tier 2, which includes those over 64, essential workers in transportation and critical manufacturing as well as homeless and incarcerated individuals, is expected to begin later this winter.
Phase 1C includes those over 50, residents aged 16 to 64 with high-risk medical conditions and essential workers in a variety of fields is planned for the spring, while Phase 2 will vaccinate anyone over 16 not included in Phase 1 this summer.
“We’re urging everyone, when you have the opportunity, please get vaccinated when you’re eligible,” Roth said. “The more people we can vaccinate in our community, the safer all of us are.”
Calling CCHS the hub of the county’s immunization effort, Dr. Ori Tzvieli, CCHS health officer and COVID-19 operations chief, stressed that most residents will be notified of their eligibility and vaccinated by their health care provider, not by a county program. He said questions regarding the scheduling of vaccinations should be directed to them. In addition to hospitals and clinics, vaccinations will be available at CVS, Walgreens, Rite-Aid and Safeway pharmacies.
“As more residents become eligible for immunization, healthcare providers in Contra Costa will let their members and patients know how to make vaccination appointments,” Tzvieli said. “... We’re coordinating closely with hospitals and independent providers, pharmacies and clinics to make sure the vaccine is available for everyone...Contra Costa Health Services is the hub for distributing COVID-19 vaccine and for coordinating the county’s immunization campaign.”
While the county’s vaccination plans develop, the regional shelter-in-place order enacted by California Department of Public Health (CDPH) for the 11-county Bay Area region Dec. 17 remains in place. Originally set to expire on Jan. 8, the order will remain in place until intensive care unit capacity in the region projected four weeks into the future meets or exceeds 15%. CDPH reported an ICU capacity in the region of 4.7% as of Jan. 12.
“To keep our hospitals running, we all have to do our part to follow the stay-at-home order, which is still in effect for our county,” Tzvieli said. “We also ask all Contra Costans to remain diligent about distancing, avoiding gatherings (and) wearing a mask when we go out. It saves lives.”
For more information regarding Contra Costa County’s vaccination plan, call 844-729-8410 or visit www.cchealth.org/coronavirus.