We are way behind schedule weeks after the California mass vaccination schedule. Of the roughly 2 million doses that were distributed, only about 650,000 were injected into the arms of citizens on Friday, according to the California Department of Health.
In view of the criticism, the officials are now trying to expand access. This week, they started offering vaccines to the next two tiers of eligible recipients – beyond hospital staff to a wider range of healthcare workers, such as people who work in specialist clinics, dental clinics and pharmacies.
As early as next week, dentists will be offered a four-hour online training course on how to administer the shot.
Meanwhile, President-elect Joe Biden announced on Friday that his administration would release almost all available vaccine doses when he takes office later this month, rather than holding supplies for a second dose. Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are currently approved for use.
Here’s a look at the process and when you can expect to get a vaccination.
Who will get the vaccine now?
We are currently in Phase 1A and are deploying the vaccine to healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities. Phase 1A has three levels; Counties move through these levels at different speeds depending on local supply and demand.
Tier 1: acute care hospitals, psychiatry and prisons; Staff and residents of qualified nursing and assisted living; Paramedics, paramedics and dialysis centers.
Tier 2: intermediate care facilities; Home care; Community health workers; Public health workers; Primary care clinics; Correctional clinics, rural clinics and emergency care facilities.
Tier 3: Other health care facilities and workers, including specialist clinics, laboratory technicians, dental and oral clinics, and pharmacy staff that have not been treated at higher levels.
This phase of vaccine introduction is relatively straightforward as employers simply notify their employees. Employees can be easily identified through professional licenses, employee ID cards or pay slips.
Most of the doses for residents of qualified nursing and assisted living facilities are distributed by the federal government’s pharmacy program, not by the state, although some districts have rejected this program. CVS or Walgreens communicate directly with each facility.
Who will get the vaccine next?
The next step is Phase 1B, which is expected to start in early February. The hope is that everyone at this stage will be offered at least one dose by the end of March. Phase 1B has two levels:
Tier 1: Anyone 75 years of age or older; Workers in education and childcare; Rescue workers (fire brigade, police and correction officers); Food and agriculture workers, including grocery store workers.
Tier 2: Everyone 65 years and older; Workers in transport / logistics; industrial, residential and commercial accommodation / services; critical manufacturing; detained persons; homeless.
If the vaccine becomes available to these groups, it will likely be administered by doctors and health plans, primary care clinics, pharmacies, some workplaces, and specialty vaccination centers run by district public health offices and other partners in the community.
If your age makes you eligible, your doctor or health plan may be able to contact you. For example, Kaiser will identify eligible members and offer an appointment. Local health officials say they will seek older adults by working with community groups and age groups.
If your occupation – education, farming, and food services – qualifies you, your employer can notify you. Doctors cannot make this decision because they do not keep professional information. The district’s health authorities will communicate with employers about access to mass vaccination centers. Some employers may run their own vaccination campaigns.
Detainees are reached by correction officers. People in shelters for the homeless are vaccinated by “strike teams” or at mass vaccination centers operated by the district’s health authorities.
Who is after?
Next comes Phase 1C. There isn’t an expected start date for vaccination of this group yet, but officials want to offer at least one dose of vaccine to everyone at this stage by late April or early May.
This group includes people aged 50 years or older and people aged 16 to 49 who have had a disability or an underlying medical condition and / or disability (cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease, organ transplant, obesity, Pregnancy) are at high risk. Sickle cell disease, smoking, and type 2 diabetes mellitus).
This group also includes workers in water and waste management; Defense; Energy; Communication and information technology; Financial services; Chemicals / hazardous materials; Government operations or community service.
These groups receive vaccines from doctors and health plans, primary care clinics, pharmacies, some workplaces, and specialty vaccination centers run by the county health departments and other community partners.
What about the rest of us?
Phase 2 is currently being proposed and is expected to change before the expected start date in spring 2021.
It will likely include staff and residents of community facilities and group homes for people with disabilities or severe mental illness, as well as people at moderate risk from the underlying health conditions.
As the offer increases, the general population, children and employees who are not included in phase 1 are also included.
How do I know if I am eligible?
Call the state COVID-19 hotline: 1-833-422-4255 (8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday). The hotline provides general information on eligibility in phase 1A, 1B and 1C. Include your age and a description of the nature of your job.
I am a veteran. Where do I go?
Like the state, the Veterans Administration has a phased plan. Vaccines are currently offered for these three groups: veterans living in long-term care facilities, veterans with spinal cord injuries, and VA health workers.
Upon completion of these groups, the VA will begin offering vaccines to veterans who are at high risk of serious illness due to age or health, based on federal criteria.
If you are a veteran eligible for a vaccine, your VA health team will be in touch.
Do vulnerable communities receive special help?
Using the California Healthy Places Index, an online tool for measuring life expectancy and living conditions across the state, health officials want to track vaccination rates between communities and target underserved neighborhoods and rural areas.
How quickly does the vaccine protect me?
It usually takes a few weeks for the body to build up immunity after vaccination. That said, it is possible that a person could become infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 immediately after being vaccinated and still get sick. It is not known how long vaccine-induced immunity lasts, but after COVID-19 infections, most people have a robust immune response that lasts for at least eight months.
What else is in the pipeline?
Both Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca are expected to receive results from their US COVID-19 vaccine study in late January. If all goes well, they would get an emergency permit in February.
The overall effectiveness of these two vaccines in preventing infection is less than that of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. But they also have other advantages. Both vaccines are easier to store because they do not need to be frozen. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a single dose that makes it easy to administer.
Right now you have no choice of vaccine. However, if more are available this may change as some users prefer the more effective shots – or one shot for simplicity.
For the latest information from the Monterey County Department of Health on vaccines and COVID-19, please visit https://bit.ly/39kWPwm