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By Sue Frost–
As we work toward what will hopefully be the end of this now year-long pandemic, a natural discussion topic is around vaccines. Through the roller coaster of the COVID-19 response, for many people, the vaccines offered hope for bringing all of it to an end.
Understandably, since the first doses of vaccines became available, I have heard from countless constituents frustrated with how challenging it is to access the vaccine or even get connected with information on the process.
I get it. Some of the challenges in this process fall on the county. We could have come out with a better website and had a more thought-out plan for distribution. Like many of the struggles we have all gone through over the last year, I am afraid that the leading cause of our woes is the state once again.
When vaccines first became available, there was a simple explanation of why there were not enough vaccines to go around: limited supply.
Not all of the vaccines that are available today were even approved for distribution back in January. The ones that were approved and in circulation were limited and had to be stored under specific conditions. Of course, there is also the fact that both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines required recipients to receive two doses, limiting the supply even further.
Thanks to the approval of the Jansen vaccine, the total supply is increasing. Unfortunately, the state’s increase in supply being distributed does not necessarily benefit Sacramento County residents hoping to get their dose(s).
The inconsistency in distribution became blatantly apparent in February when the state’s total vaccine supply rose 20%, and Sacramento County’s allocation dropped by 18%.
Unfortunately, this has become a pattern. In January, Sacramento County received 2.83% of the state’s total distribution of doses. Since then, we have seen that percentage steadily decrease. On March 8, even with the newly available Jansen vaccine, Sacramento County’s allocation from the state fell to just 1.65% of total doses distributed.
There is some explanation for this, including that Sacramento County’s population of eligible or priority populations is lower than neighboring counties. The best explanation I’ve heard came from our acting director of public health. During the Board of Supervisors meeting on March 9, he said that what is essentially happening is that the governor changes his mind every two weeks. The distribution formula changes, and it never benefits Sacramento County.
At this point, are any of us surprised? The state’s response to the pandemic has been a series of changes based on state officials’ whims, uninterested in looking at challenges at the local level. As other counties take larger percentages of the state’s distribution of doses, they are blazing past Sacramento County through the tiered system of eligible vaccine recipients.
Meanwhile, my office is still receiving calls from individuals eligible since the first dose was administered, struggling to access the vaccines that will bring them peace of mind, or closer to normalcy.
At the same time, Sacramento County’s public health officials have to spend their time advocating to the state for a distribution method that accounts for the fact that Sacramento County is a regional distribution hub, and even with more than 3% of the state’s population, we have never received 3% of the state’s distribution.
I think everyone that wants the vaccine should be able to get the vaccine. I understand the challenges with rolling out an emergency vaccine amid a global pandemic, and I knew it was never going to be easy. However, the reality of what is going on at the local level continues to be an afterthought for the state, and it seems Sacramento County is somewhere in the far back.
Sacramento County Supervisor Sue Frost formerly served as a Citrus Heights councilwoman and currently represents District 4, which includes Citrus Heights. She can also be contacted at (916) 874-5491, or [email protected]
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