Over half of county’s eligible population now fully vaccinated, students now getting their turn

By Katherine Minkiewicz-Martine and Heather Bailey Staff writers, SoCoNews, May 8, 2021

The County of Sonoma announced on May 5 that over half of the county’s 16 and older population is now fully vaccinated. In addition, more than two-thirds of the 411,000 eligible residents have received at least one shot, according to county officials. In reaching these milestones, the county has outpaced the state and the nation in the rate of vaccine doses administered, according to a county press release.

“Thanks to our vast constellation of health care providers and community leaders and volunteers, we have made great progress in getting shots into arms,” said Lynda Hopkins, chair of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. “While we are proud of this effort, it is still too early to declare ‘Mission Accomplished.’ We have more work to do to reach everyone in the community and achieve herd immunity.”

According to the most recent county vaccination data, as of May 5 the county has administered 467,642 of the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

A total of 275,985 residents, about 67% of the eligible population, have received at least one dose. 204,615, or about 50% of the eligible population, have been fully vaccinated.

Since the first doses of COVID-19 arrived in December 2020, Sonoma County health officials have been working with hospitals, health centers, pharmacies and the state’s third party vaccine administrator, Blue Shield, to get vaccines equitably distributed.

“We’ve done a great job fully vaccinating half of our population,” said Sonoma County Vaccine Mission Chief Dr. Urmila Shende. “For those who have yet to get a shot, the good news is there are plenty of appointments available, so schedule yours today at MyTurn.ca.gov.”

Vaccine clinics for teenagers on May 8 and May 12

To help continue moving vaccines forward, the Sonoma County Office of Education (SCOE) has announced it will be holding vaccine clinics for high school students and families on Saturday, May 8, and Wednesday, May 12.

The clinics are the result of a partnership between SCOE, Safeway, Sonoma County Department of Health Services and Sonoma County school districts that have offered to host clinics. They were developed in response to a need identified by SCDHS to provide more opportunities for the youth of Sonoma County to be vaccinated.

“Being vaccinated is one of the best ways students can enjoy the academic and extracurricular aspects of school while protecting themselves, their families and their friends,” said Sonoma County Superintendent of Schools Steve Herrington in a statement.

The Saturday clinic will take place at Elsie Allen High School in Santa Rosa, from 2 to 6 p.m. The Wednesday, May 12, clinic will be hosted at Sonoma Valley High School, from 3 to 7 p.m.

Both clinics will administer the Pfizer vaccine, which is authorized for individuals age 16 and older.

“Vaccination will allow students and their families to once again enjoy activities such as graduation, vacations, traveling, and soccer and Giants games, while staying healthy and safe,” said Shende in a statement.

According to SCOE, the clinics are designed to make the vaccination process as easy as possible for busy families. Students and their families can come get vaccinated together. Registrations are encouraged and will be prioritized, but walk-ins are also welcome. Individuals with photo ID are encouraged to bring them, but nobody will be turned away for lack of photo identification. Students under age 18 need parental consent. If a parent/guardian is unable to attend, they can provide written consent for vaccination for their child. This form can be accessed and printed when registering online.

The clinics would not be possible without the support of Santa Rosa City Schools and Sonoma Valley Unified School District, which are hosting them at their high school gymnasiums, according to SCOE.

“Santa Rosa City Schools prioritized making COVID vaccines available for our teachers and staff. Now that teens age 16 and older are eligible to get vaccinated, we are happy to provide a location and make this as convenient as possible for students and their families,” said Diann Kitamura, superintendent of Santa Rosa City Schools, in a statement.

“It is very exciting for all of our students, especially for our seniors, as they approach graduation and they will have the opportunity to get vaccinated,” said Bruce Abbott, associate superintendent of business services at Sonoma Valley Unified School District, in a statement.

Attendees are not required to be students of either the Santa Rosa or Sonoma Valley school districts. Anyone 16 or older is eligible and Spanish translators will be available. It is recommended to wear a short sleeve shirt.

More information and updates can be found at scoe.org/vaccines.

Blood, sweat and tiers

The county is also on the cusp of moving in to the yellow, or least restrictive tier.

“We are on the verge of moving to the yellow tier. We had our first week where all our metrics were qualified for yellow. If we maintain for another week we will be able to move by next Wednesday into the yellow tier. Our metrics continue to drop, which is encouraging our adjusted cases per day is 1.9, it needed to go below 2 for yellow. Our testing positivity rate is 0.9%, and our testing positivity rate in the lowest quartile is 1.2, which is also in the yellow tier. Everything is at an all-time low,” said county health officer Dr. Sundari Mase at a May 5 briefing. “Once in the yellow, that indicates the virus is only minimally spreading and it shows the end of the pandemic is in sight. It’s important to keep getting tested, wear a face covering … even a little help from the community by continuing mitigation measures are things we can do to keep us in the yellow tier metric for next week.”

At that briefing on May 5, county supervisors also revealed that in addition, the governor has announced that the tier system may go away altogether by June 15, if the state can maintain its current trends.

“Governor Newsom stated that June 15 is the date the state intends to do away with the Blueprint for a Safer Economy and reopen the economy completely. It is predicated on two things —one is enough vaccine supply for all eligible Californians and that hospitalization rates remain stable and low … although mask wearing and common sense should still be applied,” said county supervisor David Rabitt. “Also, school will return with full-time, in-person instruction. Testing and vaccination will still be required for some sectors, like large full scale events … June 15 is 40 days away. We look forward to return to a more normal way of life.”

How and where to get vaccines

For the teen vaccination clinic at Elsie Allen High School Gymnasium on Saturday, May 8, from 2 to 6 p.m., sign up for an appointment here. For the teen  vaccination clinic at Sonoma Valley High School Gymnasium on Wednesday, May 12, from 3 to 7 p.m., sign up for an appointment here. (Vaccinations are also available at these locations for anyone 16 and up.)

Vaccination appointments are also available at the Sebastopol Community Cultural Center and Guerneville Elementary School. See information here: https://www.wchealth.org/news/covid-19-vaccine/covid-19-vaccine-appointment-schedule/. (NOTE: Scroll down to the bottom of the page, where there is a form for those interested in getting a vaccination at one of these two locations.)

Those who need help with making a vaccine appointment can also call the county COVID hotline at 707-565-4677. Folks can also make vaccine appointments through the myturn.ca.gov website.

Sonoma County residents may also continue to use the vaccination clinic list to find and make an appointment. Eligible individuals who are insured are encouraged to first seek a vaccination appointment through the regular primary healthcare provider.

For all of the county vaccine information, visit: https://socoemergency.org/emergency/novel-coronavirus/vaccine-information/.

This article was produced by SoCoNews. See more news at soconews.org