PACIFIC COUNTY — The distribution and administration of covid-19 vaccines may still be in the early stages, but local officials have started preparing now for when shots are expected to become more widely available to the public later this year.

As part of an effort that county health officials hope will make administering vaccines in the county more seamless while also increasing public awareness, the Pacific County Health and Human Services Department released last week an online form that it is urging county residents to promptly complete.

In addition to asking for basic information such as name, email, mailing address, and phone number, the form also asks for the participant’s age, if they have underlying medical conditions, what their occupation is and whether they plan to receive the vaccine once they are eligible. The form can be accessed at https://bit.ly/3odSfXj.

For south county residents who may not have internet access or are otherwise unable to fill out the form, Long Beach City Administrator David Glasson said at the Jan. 4 city council meeting that people can call city hall at 360-642-4421 and staff will help enter the data for them.

“So if you’re a senior and all you’ve got is a phone, and you want to call us, we’ll enter that information for you to try and get people vaccinated that want it,” Glasson said.

The form sets out to accomplish two things, according to county health director Katie Lindstrom. First, it helps to gather information from county residents to determine which of the several priority groups they may fall into. Second, it collects contact information for future communication via email, to keep people up-to-date on when the county moves into a new priority group, and how they can schedule an appointment to receive the vaccine when they become eligible.

Vaccine rollout slow

The announcement comes in the midst of a slower-than-expected initial rollout of the vaccine throughout the country. As of Jan. 4, just 4.7 million doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine combined have been administered in the United States, according to state-by-state and CDC data tracked by Bloomberg News, far short of the 20 million benchmark that federal officials aimed for by the end of 2020.

In Pacific County, at least 350 people in Phase 1a have received a vaccine dose or are scheduled to receive a dose as of Jan. 4, Lindstrom said — about 1.6% of the county’s population. Those comprising Phase 1a includes health workers, EMS and first responders, and staff and residents of long-term care facilities. Lindstrom estimated that there are about 600 people total in the county that are eligible now to receive the vaccine as part of the initial phase.

Some 1,175 doses have been distributed to health facilities in Pacific County so far. Ocean Beach Hospital initially received 975 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine several weeks ago, but Lindstrom said 500 of the doses have since been transferred to an out-of-county provider because there aren’t enough Phase 1a-eligible people in the county to use up all of the doses.

OBH also received 300 doses of Moderna’s vaccine, 100 of which the hospital transferred to the county health department for the vaccination of north county health workers at a vaccine clinic the department held at the South Bend Fire Department on Dec. 30. The health department also recently received 300 doses of its own of Moderna’s vaccine, and Valley View Health Center in Raymond received 100 Moderna doses.

CVS and Walgreens pharmacies have contracted to administer the vaccine in the county and nationally at long-term care facilities, with a concerted push expected this month. The pharmacies are working directly with the facilities to plan for the vaccination, and Lindstrom said a CVS or Walgreens from a neighboring county will likely be administering the vaccine at the facilities in Pacific County.

While news outlets in some communities throughout the country have reported high rates of the Phase 1a population declining to be vaccinated, it hasn’t been much of a issue locally so far. Lindstrom said there have been some eligible people refusing to receive the vaccine in Pacific County, “but for the most part, healthcare providers are signing up.”

Next wave of vaccinations around the corner

With more than half of the county’s Phase 1a population already receiving the first dose of a two-dose regimen, the effort to begin vaccinating the next phase of eligible people may be just weeks away.

While state health officials had not finalized its Phase 1b priority list as of the Observer’s print deadline on Tuesday afternoon, it is expected to be unveiled this week and be similar to federal recommendations released in late December. The federal recommendations call for the next wave of vaccines to go to people age 75 and older, as well as front-line essential workers such as teachers, food workers, emergency responders and public transit and postal service employees.

If all goes well, Lindstrom said that the Phase 1b population in Pacific County could begin to be vaccinated in just a few weeks — toward the end of January or beginning of February. With the state recommendations still being finalized, Lindstrom said it’s hard to figure how large the county’s Phase 1b population is, although it will certainly be larger than the Phase 1a group.

As more people continue to become eligible to receive the vaccine, the county health department’s plan is to stand up drive-thru vaccination clinics to support local health providers in administering the vaccine. Scheduling for those clinics will primarily happen with those eligible calling the Pacific County Emergency Operations Center. Eventually, enough doses of the vaccine will be available for health providers to administer shots to established clients.

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