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Sonoma County vaccination event for health care workers hoped to become model for California

As Bay Area coronavirus cases continue to surge, plans are underway in the North Bay to find better solutions to get more people vaccinated in less time by designing an innovative way to expand numbers of those protected from the disease, while also supporting access equity for all segments of the population.

“At the rate we are going today, it could take as long as three years to vaccinate everyone,” said Dr. Robert Schulman, president of the 750-member Sonoma County Medical Association (SCMA). “We need to find ways to do this in six months. Our collective hope is that we will establish a format and standard procedures that can evolve into a template for our county and California as part of the statewide effort to combat this disease.”

While North Bay hospitals have started to inoculate their medical personnel in Tier1a, SCMA is collaborating with the Sonoma County Health Department headed by Dr. Sundari Mase to expand this process to those who may not have access to hospital resources, such as people working in small or solo medical, dental and allied practices.

The plan calls for developing a series of vaccination clinics throughout the greater Santa Rosa metro area, with a goal of replicating this model to include those in current and subsequent Tier groups countywide.

The first of these by-reservation-only satellite clinics opened Friday at 3313 Chanate Road. Scores of doctors, nurses, medical assistants and administrative office personnel lined up from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. to receive the first of two doses of the U.S. FDA-approved Pfizer-Biontech COVID-19 vaccine to help prevent them from getting the virus.

This vaccination clinic is exclusively for doctors and medical personnel only, and not for the general public. In future vaccine rollout Tiers, other population groups will be added.

"If we don't vaccinate our physicians and medical staff members first and they get sick, who will be available to take care of their patients and the rest of us?" said Peter N. Bretan, M.D, FACS, president of the California Medical Association. He came to the clinic to learn how this Sonoma County approach can become a Point Of Distribution (POD) model for other counties and medical associations to copy statewide

This site reopened Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is scheduled to do so on Monday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. By closing time on Monday, more than 600 individuals will have received the initial vaccination, to be followed in 21 days by a second injection. A 30-day interval is advised between getting flu and COVID-19 shots.

Wendy Young, executive director of SCMA, sent a mass email to all regional medical practices asking their employees to sign up in advance and/or to volunteer to help staff the clinic.

The response was high and appointments were scheduled on an hourly basis. All available slots were filled in record time. The entire process takes from about 30 to 45 minutes for participants, including intake safety procedures, completing forms, getting the vaccination and waiting 15 minutes to make sure there are no allergic reactions.

“Our mission is to support Sonoma County in reaching all population tiers as quickly as possible,” said Young,. “We’re already signing up participants for the next clinic site within Santa Rosa we hope to open in about a week that will be bigger and have a larger staff able to handle more vaccinations. We’re obtaining additional syringes and have access to thousands of vaccine doses through the county.”

She said, “I tell people we are building the plane and flying it at the same time. Sure, some mistakes are being made and we may fall behind occasionally, but we’re making course corrections as we go in a concerted effort to create a well-oiled machine. I believe the SCMA is the first professional organization to partner with a county to vaccinate all tiers within its jurisdiction.”

While the current supply of COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. is currently limited, plans for delivering available vaccines allocated to Sonoma County are well underway. As of January 10, 2021, 11,179 healthcare workers have been vaccinated, including staff of behavioral health hospitals, first responders and others that qualify under Phase 1a prioritization.

Of this total, 4,170 individuals have received the Moderna vaccine and 7,009 received the Pfizer vaccine. Sonoma County has received 25,000 COVID-19 vaccination doses since Dec. 18, according to Matt Brown with Sonoma County Public Affairs, including follow up shipments on a weekly basis..

Six acute care hospitals in Sonoma County – Kaiser Permanente, Memorial Hospital, Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital, Petaluma Valley Hospital, Healdsburg Hospital and Sonoma Valley Hospital – are receiving vaccine doses directly from the state to vaccinate their frontline healthcare workers.

In addition, two chain pharmacies – CVS and Walgreens – are receiving vaccine doses directly from the Centers for Disease Control in a federal partnership to send pharmacists to vaccinate staff and residents of long-term care facilities.

Sonoma County has also submitted plans to the Department of Public Health outlining its local vaccine distribution plans.

Napa County

Public officials say vaccinations are also underway in Napa County using a staged approach that includes assessing each resident’s age, health and occupation. They said that to date, 3,318 of the 6,300 vaccine does received in the county and its hospitals have been given during Tier 1 phase 1A, according to Karen Relucio, Napa County public health officer, speaking at a county board of supervisors session.

This tier has been standardized under protocols established the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It includes doctors, staff and hospital residents along with those working at skilled nursing facilities, assisted living centers such as the Veterans Home of California at Yountville, along with paramedics and other emergency responders, as reported by the Napa Register. Two vaccination clinics have also been opened at skilled nursing and assisted living facilities providing nearly 500 doses.

At Adventist Health’s St. Helena Hospital, some staffers will start to receive their second doses in a week, following 800 first round doses.

Both county hospitals have administered hundreds of doses. At the state-run Napa State psychiatric hospital, more than 1,000 doses have been given to patients and 1,500 staff members have received the first dose. Queen of the Valley Medical Center reports administering some 1,100 doses to date.

Next week, the county will move to Tier 2, including home healthcare, primary care and urgent care clinics. Depending on vaccine supplies, Napa will move into Tier 3 in February, including specialty and dental clinics, lab employees and pharmacy staffs. Tier 1 of Phase 1B (to begin in March) will focus on residents ages 75 and older, first responders and those working in education, childcare and food and agriculture. Relucio said.

In April, Tier 2 of Phase 1B will make residents ages 65 to 75 eligible for vaccine as well as shelter residents, critical manufacturing workers, those in jail, the homeless and shelter residents eligible.

Those under age 50 in the county who are not essential workers and do not have pre-existing conditions should not expect to be vaccinated until at least next summer, Relucio added.

Marin County

Currently, COVID-19 vaccine is limited to front-line healthcare personnel, as defined in Tiers 1 and 2 of Phase 1A of the state’s framework. Marin County Health and Human Services’ vaccine clinic averaged approximately 800 vaccinations per day for the week ending Jan. 8 and officials plan to expand this during the week of January 11 and beyond as more doses become available.

According to spokesperson Laine Henricks, Marin County has requested additional doses from the State of California beyond its normal allocation because if its rapid utilization and successful distribution of doses received so far.

“We’ve received 12,778 vaccine doses to date, and by January 8 Marin County will have allocated just under 12,000 at hospitals (for all staff that qualify), mobile teams visiting facilities, CVS visiting facilities through the federal pharmacy partnership program, and through our Point of Dispensing (POD) site which has been operational for a couple of weeks.”

She said Marin is anticipating its next shipment to be around 2,300 doses. “Our public health officer Matt Willis, MD, MPH, strives to have as few doses in the freezer as possible at the end of the week. We’re also providing medical and health-related facilities with the necessary infrastructure (ultra-cold freezers) and training to sign-up and receive the vaccine to administer to their own staff.”

The state has created a system by which facilities/providers can register and with local public health approval, receive vaccine directly. In addition, Marin Public Health is working with local health care personnel to get their staff members trained so they can become PODs as the vaccine supply expands.”

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Editor’s Note: The name of Dr. Robert Schulman, president of the 750-member Sonoma County Medical Association (SCMA), was incorrect in an earlier version of this story.

Also, it was modified to add information about Marin County’s vaccination plans.

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