News

Santa Clara County opens up COVID-19 vaccines to all residents age 75 and older

Expansion falls short of state guidelines

CVS pharmacists give the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to Channing House residents at the retirement community on Dec. 28, 2020. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

All Santa Clara County residents age 75 and older are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine effective immediately, vastly expanding the number of people eligible for immunization against the virus, county officials announced in a press conference Wednesday.

County Counsel James Williams said the county now has enough doses to extend eligibility beyond the previously narrow restrictions, which only permitted front-line health care workers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities to receive the vaccine. To date, an estimated 52,000 doses have already been administered, 31,000 of which were done by the county health system.

Residents interested in receiving a vaccine are being asked to go to sccfreevax.org to sign up for an appointment and go through a verification process to confirm eligibility, Williams said. Sutter Health, Stanford Health Care or Kaiser Permanente are expected to adopt the same eligibility requirements "soon," county officials said, and all three health care providers have individual links for scheduling vaccinations on the county’s web portal.

The county's vaccine eligibility, while greatly expanded, falls short of state guidelines released earlier Wednesday permitting counties to vaccinate all residents age 65 and older. Williams said the county is aware of the state's guidance, but simply does not have enough vaccine doses to accommodate that many residents. Over 300,000 residents in the county are over the age of 65. Once more doses have been received, the county will seek to reduce the age requirement to 65.

"We hope to be in a position to do that as well, as soon as we get vaccine supply here locally," Williams said.

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The announcements by the state and the county are surprise moves that abandon a previous phased approach, which would have included workers in education, child care, emergency services, food and agriculture. The change of pace is driven by data that overwhelmingly shows older residents are far more likely to fall ill and die when they contract COVID-19.

Santa Clara County data shows 87.3% of the county's 1,011 COVID-19 deaths are among people ages 60 and older.

Williams cautioned that the county's vaccine web portal, sccfreevax.org, is the only county-run place to make arrangements to get the vaccine, and that other links and misinformation have caused problems in recent days. The result is that roughly 100 people have been turned away from vaccination appointments or were never eligible in the first place.

The county is moving forward with expanded vaccine eligibility despite many front-line health care workers who have still not received their first dose. Williams said the county has yet to receive enough doses from the state to vaccinate all health care workers in the county, but opening up further eligibility will ensure no vaccine goes unused.

The county must strike a balance between available supply and expanded eligibility, Williams said, which is made difficult because of quick changes in federal and state policies. What's more, the county has little knowledge of how many doses it's expecting to receive in the coming weeks, and does not have oversight of vaccine distribution to private pharmacies, Palo Alto Medical Foundation and Kaiser.

"We're operating in an environment that is not only changing, but that has very limited information," he said.

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

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Kevin Forestieri writes for the Mountain View Voice, a sister publication of PaloAltoOnline.com.

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Santa Clara County opens up COVID-19 vaccines to all residents age 75 and older

Expansion falls short of state guidelines

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Wed, Jan 13, 2021, 5:16 pm

All Santa Clara County residents age 75 and older are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine effective immediately, vastly expanding the number of people eligible for immunization against the virus, county officials announced in a press conference Wednesday.

County Counsel James Williams said the county now has enough doses to extend eligibility beyond the previously narrow restrictions, which only permitted front-line health care workers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities to receive the vaccine. To date, an estimated 52,000 doses have already been administered, 31,000 of which were done by the county health system.

Residents interested in receiving a vaccine are being asked to go to sccfreevax.org to sign up for an appointment and go through a verification process to confirm eligibility, Williams said. Sutter Health, Stanford Health Care or Kaiser Permanente are expected to adopt the same eligibility requirements "soon," county officials said, and all three health care providers have individual links for scheduling vaccinations on the county’s web portal.

The county's vaccine eligibility, while greatly expanded, falls short of state guidelines released earlier Wednesday permitting counties to vaccinate all residents age 65 and older. Williams said the county is aware of the state's guidance, but simply does not have enough vaccine doses to accommodate that many residents. Over 300,000 residents in the county are over the age of 65. Once more doses have been received, the county will seek to reduce the age requirement to 65.

"We hope to be in a position to do that as well, as soon as we get vaccine supply here locally," Williams said.

The announcements by the state and the county are surprise moves that abandon a previous phased approach, which would have included workers in education, child care, emergency services, food and agriculture. The change of pace is driven by data that overwhelmingly shows older residents are far more likely to fall ill and die when they contract COVID-19.

Santa Clara County data shows 87.3% of the county's 1,011 COVID-19 deaths are among people ages 60 and older.

Williams cautioned that the county's vaccine web portal, sccfreevax.org, is the only county-run place to make arrangements to get the vaccine, and that other links and misinformation have caused problems in recent days. The result is that roughly 100 people have been turned away from vaccination appointments or were never eligible in the first place.

The county is moving forward with expanded vaccine eligibility despite many front-line health care workers who have still not received their first dose. Williams said the county has yet to receive enough doses from the state to vaccinate all health care workers in the county, but opening up further eligibility will ensure no vaccine goes unused.

The county must strike a balance between available supply and expanded eligibility, Williams said, which is made difficult because of quick changes in federal and state policies. What's more, the county has little knowledge of how many doses it's expecting to receive in the coming weeks, and does not have oversight of vaccine distribution to private pharmacies, Palo Alto Medical Foundation and Kaiser.

"We're operating in an environment that is not only changing, but that has very limited information," he said.

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

Kevin Forestieri writes for the Mountain View Voice, a sister publication of PaloAltoOnline.com.

Comments

Scott Lamb
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Jan 14, 2021 at 2:33 pm
Scott Lamb, Monta Loma
Registered user
on Jan 14, 2021 at 2:33 pm

What's the hold-up with the county receiving doses from the state? sfgate wrote two days ago that California has used only 27% of its doses, so it's surprising to hear that Santa Clara County "has yet to receive enough doses from the state to vaccinate all health care workers in the county". Seems like distribution has failed at the state level...


Nora S.
Registered user
Rex Manor
on Jan 14, 2021 at 3:16 pm
Nora S., Rex Manor
Registered user
on Jan 14, 2021 at 3:16 pm

Is the county considering ethnicity in the vaccination appointment sign-ups for people in this age group, and prioritizing people from harder-hit ethnicities? This was the conclusion that my elderly friends drew when they tried to sign up for vaccination slots. Their success seemed to vary by ethnicity.


Dave Smith
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Jan 14, 2021 at 4:03 pm
Dave Smith, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Jan 14, 2021 at 4:03 pm

Seems to me CA and Santa Clara Govt officials were quick to blame Trump and the Feds (no I'm not a Trumper) that they forgot to plan their own stuff... I have relatives that work at City Heath dept levels and all calls to State officials are met with straight to voicemail and no return emails or calls... I guess Gav Newsom is too busy setting up the No Gas Power Auto agency, Bullet Train project recovery task force and Reparations (for slavery in a state that did not not even have slavery) Litigation team. You think I joke.....but it is true..


Dave Williams
Registered user
Waverly Park
on Jan 14, 2021 at 4:22 pm
Dave Williams, Waverly Park
Registered user
on Jan 14, 2021 at 4:22 pm

The county information says 65 and older. What is the confusion. Is it PAMF and Kaiser? I wish PAMF would communicate their plans. Not knowing and wondering is horrible


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