In an effort to boost COVID-19 vaccination numbers and reach herd immunity, Santa Clara County health officials are extending hours at their vaccination sites and planning to roll out a major push to encourage those who are hesitant or who can't get to a vaccination site, they said during a county Health and Hospital Committee meeting on Wednesday.
The county saw "very dramatic" demand for the vaccines, but that has now begun to swing in the opposite direction, county Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody told the committee made up of two county supervisors.
There are more shots available than there are arms to put them in. The county has seen a flattening in the number of adults ages 50 and older who are being vaccinated while those ages 16 to 29 are coming out. Disparities still persist with Latinos having the lowest percentage of people who have been vaccinated.
To date 1,073,125 residents and people who work in the county ages 16 and older -- 66.7% -- have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 626,092 (38.9%) have completed their vaccinations, according to the county's vaccine online dashboard. About 8% have not shown up for their second vaccines, said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, county testing and vaccine officer..
Fenstersheib said that among ages 50 and older, about 58% of those identifying as white, Black and Latino have been vaccinated, with Asians getting vaccinated at a higher rate. For the general population ages 16 and older, more than 80% of those identifying as Asian have gotten vaccines. The numbers among Latinos and Blacks still lag, with about 41% of Latinos and 47.5% of Blacks having received at least one shot. Among whites, about 54.7% have received at least one dose.
The county is offering the two-shot Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, but it will also offer the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine at select locations for anyone who wants it, county officials said.
Santa Clara County reinstated the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Wednesday after federal authorities paused its use pending an investigation of a rare form of blood clot that can be a side effect. On April 23, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration determined the vaccine's benefits outweigh the risks and lifted the pause, since only 15 people were found to have developed the clots nationwide.
County health leaders said they don't want to lose momentum. Cody said the county would do "very intensive outreach" to those who have not yet received the vaccine and "to understand the barriers they may have."
Fenstersheib said there are many reasons for vaccine hesitancy. Some people said they have already had COVID-19 and don't want to go through getting the vaccinations; others fear vaccine side effects. Still others are concerned due to misinformation such as that the shot causes fertility issues, a claim that health officials assert isn't true, according to Fenstersheib.
"The push for the last 25% or so (vaccinated) is going to be very difficult because of the misinformation but we're working on it," Fenstersheib said.
The county will open some sites until 8 p.m., since reaching a vaccination site during regular business hours appears to be a barrier for some working people. The Expo site at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds, 2542 Monterey Highway, Gate D, San Jose, will extend hours until 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays starting next week. The county is also looking to extend hours until 7 p.m. at Emmanuel Baptist Church, 467 North White Road, San Jose, during some weekdays. Health leaders are also seeking to increase the MobileVax service to add weekends and some evenings, Cody said.
This week, the county also opened many of its sites to drop-in vaccinations, except for the Fairgrounds, through Sunday, May 2. The Mountain View Community Center, 201 South Rengstorff Ave., Mountain View, is offering shots to walk-ups on Friday, April 30, from 8:30 a.m.-5:45 p.m. Eastridge Mall is also offering walk-up and appointment-based services. Levi Stadium has same-day appointments but not walk-ups.
Santa Clara County residents can visit sccfreevax.org or call 211 to make an appointment.