The Monterey County Board of Supervisors tried to clear up any misunderstandings about the timing and rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations this week. At its regular meeting, the Board heard from various groups involved in the rollout who said they’re ready, they just need more doses of vaccine. KAZU’S Doug McKnight attended the meeting and spoke with KAZU's Erika Mahoney about the county’s plans.
Erika Mahoney (EM): Doug, how long are local officials anticipating it will take to complete the vaccination effort in Monterey County?
Doug McKnight (DM): We keep hearing this phrase “herd immunity.” Monterey County Health Officer Dr. Edward Moreno describes that as the point where enough people in the county have been vaccinated so the disease can no longer spread. And he said that’s the goal. Moreno showed off his math skills at the meeting. He says herd immunity is 80 percent of the county. Taking into consideration that each person needs two shots, Moreno said, that’s about 515,000 doses if you don’t count children. But here’s the problem, at the rate the County is presently receiving vaccines, it will take 32 months or almost three years to reach that goal.
EM: Wow that’s a long time. I have two follow-up questions. First, what’s the hold up with the vaccine supply?
DM: Dr. Moreno says they are getting whatever the state and federal governments send. While President Joe Biden says the federal government will begin increasing shipments to the states, it is not known how long it will take.
EM: Ok. So secondly, earlier you said reaching herd immunity means vaccinating 80 percent of the county. And you gave the number of doses that would require, but not including children. Does that mean children will not be vaccinated?
DM: No, not at all. Again, the county does not have enough vaccine to inoculate children at this time. Add to that, they aren’t a top priority in the vaccination rollout because they generally don’t have severe symptoms if they are infected. But we must keep in mind that children can spread the disease, so they will need to be vaccinated eventually.
Right now, the emphasis is seniors, particularly those over 75, as well as healthcare, education, child care, agricultural and emergency service workers. The reason for the focus on those over 75 is that the county’s health officer says those individuals are 220 times more likely to die if they catch COVID-19.
EM: So, what is the county doing to begin the vaccinations for those 75 and older? So many of our community members are really eager to get this vaccine.
DM: The county is partnering with hospitals, businesses and schools to identify locations for mass vaccination sites, find medical teams to administer the vaccine and locate equipment and supplies. The goal is to vaccinate up to 17,000 residents a week at mass drive through locations and clinics. They have already identified about 30 locations throughout the county.
Those who qualify for the vaccine can sign up at Monterey County’s website and we have the link to that sign up webpage on our website at KAZU.org. Though I should say, the last time I looked all the slots were filled. Keep in mind, other providers, not just the county, are also reaching out.
EM: And Doug, you’re in this age category of 75 and older. I know you’ve been eager to get the vaccine.
DM: Yes. So, my experience was that one of my medical providers did send me an email this week to sign up -- and that was really out of the blue. I got an appointment. So you may also get an email from your provider without having to go through the county.
EM: Finally, I’m thinking about the farmworkers who begin arriving soon for spring harvests. Will the state increase the doses Monterey County gets for our farmworkers?
DM: That’s a question the county would like to know. The farmworker population in Monterey County varies between about 54,000 and 90,000 people a year. It’s very seasonal. The Board of Supervisors announced in the meeting that they were going to write the Governor and ask about plans for handling that.