Southern California public health officials are making a big push this week to speed up COVID-19 vaccinations and make the requested vaccines more widely available.
To counter the slow pace of vaccinations in the region, Los Angeles, Riverside and Orange officials are setting up “supersites” or “superpods” – large, well-known venues like Disneyland and Dodger Stadium – where plenty of vaccinations can take place. some already this week. In addition to the slow vaccine distribution, Southern Californians have also taken to social media to express frustrations over the lack of information on how, when and where to get vaccinated.
Supersites to speed up vaccinations
Riverside County on Tuesday formed an incident management team that will work to create more supersites that will allow them to administer the COVID-1
Getting this information out, like getting vaccines in people’s arms, has been a challenge, said Jose Arballo Jr., a spokesman for the Riverside County Department of Public Health. Right now, the only way for people to stay in the loop is by keeping an eye on the health department’s website and looking for the information, he said. The department works to bring this communication to community partners such as non-profit organizations, businesses, homeowners’ associations and other groups who have the ability to disseminate information to a wider group of people.
Arballo said the biggest challenge in the beginning was the vaccine hesitation, but now it is keeping up with demand.
“We have hundreds of people on the waiting list,” he said. “We are working to get the people who have the right qualifications. We look at nursing students, EMTs and other students we can train and who can then staff these superpods. ”
Fulfilling the overwhelming demand
It would also help if those who are not at the current qualified levels refrain from making appointments or going to the sites, Arballo said.
“It takes stains and time away from the people who should be getting the vaccines right now, and also slows down the process,” he said.
In Los Angeles County, health officials plan to open five supersites to speed up vaccinations for health care workers. Officials expect this expansion will allow them to conduct 500,000 additional vaccinations among healthcare professionals by the end of January. Los Angeles County expects to begin vaccinations for people 65 and older in early February and for people 50 and older as well as younger people with underlying health conditions by the end of March. These levels also include important workers.
Health officials face the challenge of coming up with a system that can efficiently and quickly deliver the vaccine to as many people as possible, said Dr. Clayton Chau, Orange County health officer and director of the county health agency.
“The infrastructure to deliver the vaccines is the same as the people tasked with caring for sick people – the health system,” he said, adding that supersites will be able to provide the much-needed infrastructure to meet vaccination targets.
County health officials have been overwhelmed by calls asking when they can get the vaccine, but Chau believes “it’s a good headache for us to have,” because it means more people are open to getting the vaccine, which ultimately will help gain crew immunity and reopen the economy.
San Bernardino County had no announcements about supersites as of Tuesday. But spokesman David Wert said the county is pleased with its progress so far. He said the county has received 75,900 first doses, of which it has administered 38,770, calling it a “very respectable relationship.” The county has received 43,625 more vaccines for second dosing, he said.
Wert said they have not had any notable challenges with vaccine distribution, but that the county’s vaccination team “discusses different strategies.”
County residents can call the COVID hotline at 909-387-3911 or visit sbcovid19.com for more information, including details on vaccination sites and how to register.
Frustrations with the system
However, getting basic information on how, when and where to get vaccinated has been frustrating for many. Teri Pearlstein, 66, of Laguna Beach, said she does not know where to register or who to contact for information.
“We need advertisements on television, on motorway signs and in local communities telling us what to do in plain English,” she said. “I’m driving to Long Beach if I can get a vaccine right now, but I do not know if I can even do it. It’s beyond frustrating. ”
Even those who have been able to get the vaccines talk about problems with registration and having to wait for hours to be vaccinated. Sav Ridley, a resident of Huntington Beach, said her elderly parents had to wait three hours and 20 minutes to get their shots at a local vaccination site. It took her five days to even get those appointments, she said.
Once inside her parents, they had to wait in smaller rooms with about 40 others, which she says raises concerns about infections.
“My dad said he felt safer when waiting in line than when he was inside,” Ridley said, adding that a “drive-up” system would be much safer, especially on supersites, which likely to be more crowded.
Orange County health officials have urged residents to sign up with the Othena vaccine and test management app, but complaints have gathered on social media that the app is not working and that they are still having trouble scheduling appointments. This seems to be the only recommended way to schedule appointments right now. Only those with appointments can be vaccinated on the supersites, health officials said.
A logistical challenge
Public health officials are struggling to set up the logistics, because while billions of dollars were set aside to develop the vaccine, only a few hundred million were distributed to health departments around the country, which was simply not enough to prepare the infrastructure for vaccine distribution, said Shira Shafir, associate professor. epidemiology at UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health.
“The health department has been overloaded,” she said.
But Shafir said it is promising to see larger health departments announcing plans for supersites to help speed up the process.
“These are places like Disneyland that people know, and there are clear ways to bring people in and out,” she said. “Once the health departments figure out their surgeries and increase capacity, we start to see things improve.”