Vaccine supply lags demand

Butte County Public Health clarifies COVID-19 inoculation plans

Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

Almost exactly one year ago, Butte County Public Health began addressing COVID-19 as the pandemic it became. The department opened its operations center, as for disasters such as the Camp Fire, and continues to run in emergency mode.

“We’re not out of it yet, but we do see light at the end of the tunnel,” Public Health Director Danette York told a Zoom news conference Thursday (Feb. 11). “However, as I say, we’re still in the tunnel.”

Butte County ranks in the top 10 of California’s 58 counties for administering coronavirus vaccines—No. 8, per capita. Meanwhile, the county’s case rate of infections remains on a downward trajectory: an average of 31 new cases a day for the first 10 days of February compared to 54 a day for the last 10 days of January and 75 a day the preceding 10 days (Jan. 11-21).

Should this trend continue, York projected that Butte County would be eligible to move down the state’s tiers, to red from the most restrictive purple, “hopefully within the next two to three weeks.”

The state also has a tiering system for prioritizing vaccinations, which the county follows. We’ve reached the part of Phase 1b, Tier 1 in which all seniors over 65 are eligible. However, with approximately 40,000 such residents in Butte County, the current pace of supply does not meet that demand.

Public Health’s allocation to date is 61,925 doses of vaccine, which must cover both first and second shots. Of that, 10,000 remain on order, pending arrival. Public Health has allocated 34,325 as first doses and 17,600 as second doses. York said 8,739 people have received both doses, known as a “completed course” of vaccination.

“Unfortunately, the amount that has been allocated to the county has somewhat slowed,” she continued. “Public Health, as a system, continues to advocate for a larger and steadier allocation so we can continue with our good progress that we’ve been making.

“I know many of you may be anxious to receive that first dose and feel that progress is taking longer than expected. But just remember, we are trying to vaccinate every single person in the county that wants one, and we will get to every person that wants a vaccine—eventually—as the vaccine becomes sent to us.”

Public Health encourages residents to check its COVID-19 webpage for updates on coronavirus, including vaccinations. Dr. Robert Bernstein, the county’s public health officer, told CN&R that certain people, such as those with a history of severe allergic reactions, should consult their physician as well as “authoritative” sources of information (see “Spreading innoculation,” Newslines, Feb. 11).

The department schedules appointments through its site when public vaccine clinics are available—currently for second doses only—though York said the state will require BCPH to transition to a California-wide scheduling platform.

York also announced that one CVS pharmacy in the county, exact location unknown, will dispense 100 doses a day. It will schedule independently of the county via the website.

As to why Butte County ranks so highly for vaccination rates, York cited “the people and our relationships that we have in place.” The CEOs from Enloe Medical Center, Oroville Hospital and Orchard Hospital in Gridley represented half of the team, along with Public Health officials, who authored the county’s initial response to the pandemic, and York said these leaders still communicate their needs—as during other emergencies, from the Oroville Dam spillway disaster through the county’ series of deadly wildfires.

“Butte County is no stranger to crisis,” Public Health spokeswoman Lisa Almaguer added, “and one of the upsides is the relationships that are built during those crises have definitely helped during this process.”

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