In a public zoom meeting on Jan 5, Santa Cruz County (SCC) health officials, as well as representatives from the Mariposa Clinic, discussed the county’s efforts to contain the COVID virus. “Our intent is to vaccinate quickly,” said Dr. Eladio Pereira, Chief Medical Officer at the Mariposa Clinic, which has been tasked by the County to distribute and administer the COVID vaccine. “This illness is so wide-spread, my position is that we should all assume we have COVID-19. He feels that some testing resources should be diverted to helping with the vaccination program. “Prevention is more important than testing,” he said.

The County hopes to wrap up vaccinations for residents classified as 1A by the end of the week. This includes health care workers, first responders and residents of long-term nursing facilities. Group 1B, which includes public safety officers, people over 75, teachers and food industry workers, should start to receive the vaccine as early as next week. Public safety officers will get the first doses in this group, followed by those over 75. 

The county was supposed to receive 1000 doses initially. The State was allocated 380,000 doses which were divided up among the counties according to population. County officials estimate that 600 doses are needed to vaccinate those in the 1A group. The remaining doses from the initial allotment will be used to start inoculating people classified as 1B. 

One challenge for long range planning is that the County is only told how many doses will be available on a week-by-week basis. For example, the state receives a weekly shipment of vaccines on Tuesdays and lets the counties know on Wednesday how many doses will be delivered to them on the following Monday. With this uncertainty, it is impossible to release a definitive timetable for administering the vaccine. The State is reporting that it is holding the second dose of the vaccines in reserve to guarantee that they will be available. 

Another challenge is the scheduling of appointments for getting a vaccine. The County will only administer them by appointment to avoid the long lines of people waiting for the shot seen in other parts of the country. The health officials at the meeting expressed some concern about getting senior citizens to sign up online and is trying to establish partnerships with other organizations to help those over 75 who might not have access to a computer get signed up.

SCC Director of Public Health Jeff Terrell announced that the registration portal for online sign-up for people classified as 1B would be active in the next few days. There will be a link to that site on the SCC Public Health website The County is also planning to set up PODs (Points of Distribution) sites around the county as soon as enough vaccines are available.

The first doses that the County has received are from Moderna, although Pereira stated that they have the freezers in place to store the Pfizer vaccine and may receive that in the future. When asked about those who will refuse the vaccine, the health officials called for more educational outreach. “I cannot see any reason not to have the vaccine,” Pereira said. “The benefit of the vaccine is greater than the risk.” “Whatever we are doing now, it’s not working,” he added. “Our best hope is the vaccination.”

Click the link to view the entire meeting