News

Santa Clara County opens up COVID-19 vaccines to all residents age 75 and older

Expansion falls short of state guidelines

Terry Callahan, a transport specialist at El Camino Health, receives his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Photo by Federica Armstrong.

All Santa Clara County residents age 75 and older are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine effective immediately, vastly expanding the number of people eligible for immunization against the virus, county officials announced in a press conference Wednesday.

County Counsel James Williams said the county now has enough doses to extend eligibility beyond the previously narrow restrictions, which only permitted front-line health care workers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities to receive the vaccine. To date, an estimated 52,000 doses have already been administered, 31,000 of which were done by the county health system.

Residents interested in receiving a vaccine are being asked to go to sccfreevax.org to sign up for an appointment and go through a verification process to confirm eligibility, Williams said. Sutter Health, Stanford Health Care or Kaiser Permanente are expected to adopt the same eligibility requirements "soon," county officials said, and all three health care providers have individual links for scheduling vaccinations on the county’s web portal.

The county's vaccine eligibility, while greatly expanded, falls short of state guidelines released earlier Wednesday permitting counties to vaccinate all residents age 65 and older. Williams said the county is aware of the state's guidance, but simply does not have enough vaccine doses to accommodate that many residents. Over 300,000 residents in the county are over the age of 65. Once more doses have been received, the county will seek to reduce the age requirement to 65.

"We hope to be in a position to do that as well, as soon as we get vaccine supply here locally," Williams said.

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The announcements by the state and the county are surprise moves that abandon a previous phased approach, which would have included workers in education, child care, emergency services, food and agriculture. The change of pace is driven by data that overwhelmingly shows older residents are far more likely to fall ill and die when they contract COVID-19.

Santa Clara County data shows 87.3% of the county's 1,011 COVID-19 deaths are among people ages 60 and older.

Williams cautioned that the county's vaccine web portal, sccfreevax.org, is the only county-run place to make arrangements to get the vaccine, and that other links and misinformation have caused problems in recent days. The result is that roughly 100 people have been turned away from vaccination appointments or were never eligible in the first place.

The county is moving forward with expanded vaccine eligibility despite many front-line health care workers who have still not received their first dose. Williams said the county has yet to receive enough doses from the state to vaccinate all health care workers in the county, but opening up further eligibility will ensure no vaccine goes unused.

The county must strike a balance between available supply and expanded eligibility, Williams said, which is made difficult because of quick changes in federal and state policies. What's more, the county has little knowledge of how many doses it's expecting to receive in the coming weeks, and does not have oversight of vaccine distribution to private pharmacies, Palo Alto Medical Foundation and Kaiser.

"We're operating in an environment that is not only changing, but that has very limited information," he said.

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

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Kevin Forestieri writes for the Mountain View Voice, a sister publication of PaloAltoOnline.com.

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Santa Clara County opens up COVID-19 vaccines to all residents age 75 and older

Expansion falls short of state guidelines

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Wed, Jan 13, 2021, 5:00 pm

All Santa Clara County residents age 75 and older are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine effective immediately, vastly expanding the number of people eligible for immunization against the virus, county officials announced in a press conference Wednesday.

County Counsel James Williams said the county now has enough doses to extend eligibility beyond the previously narrow restrictions, which only permitted front-line health care workers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities to receive the vaccine. To date, an estimated 52,000 doses have already been administered, 31,000 of which were done by the county health system.

Residents interested in receiving a vaccine are being asked to go to sccfreevax.org to sign up for an appointment and go through a verification process to confirm eligibility, Williams said. Sutter Health, Stanford Health Care or Kaiser Permanente are expected to adopt the same eligibility requirements "soon," county officials said, and all three health care providers have individual links for scheduling vaccinations on the county’s web portal.

The county's vaccine eligibility, while greatly expanded, falls short of state guidelines released earlier Wednesday permitting counties to vaccinate all residents age 65 and older. Williams said the county is aware of the state's guidance, but simply does not have enough vaccine doses to accommodate that many residents. Over 300,000 residents in the county are over the age of 65. Once more doses have been received, the county will seek to reduce the age requirement to 65.

"We hope to be in a position to do that as well, as soon as we get vaccine supply here locally," Williams said.

The announcements by the state and the county are surprise moves that abandon a previous phased approach, which would have included workers in education, child care, emergency services, food and agriculture. The change of pace is driven by data that overwhelmingly shows older residents are far more likely to fall ill and die when they contract COVID-19.

Santa Clara County data shows 87.3% of the county's 1,011 COVID-19 deaths are among people ages 60 and older.

Williams cautioned that the county's vaccine web portal, sccfreevax.org, is the only county-run place to make arrangements to get the vaccine, and that other links and misinformation have caused problems in recent days. The result is that roughly 100 people have been turned away from vaccination appointments or were never eligible in the first place.

The county is moving forward with expanded vaccine eligibility despite many front-line health care workers who have still not received their first dose. Williams said the county has yet to receive enough doses from the state to vaccinate all health care workers in the county, but opening up further eligibility will ensure no vaccine goes unused.

The county must strike a balance between available supply and expanded eligibility, Williams said, which is made difficult because of quick changes in federal and state policies. What's more, the county has little knowledge of how many doses it's expecting to receive in the coming weeks, and does not have oversight of vaccine distribution to private pharmacies, Palo Alto Medical Foundation and Kaiser.

"We're operating in an environment that is not only changing, but that has very limited information," he said.

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

Kevin Forestieri writes for the Mountain View Voice, a sister publication of PaloAltoOnline.com.

Comments

Shwonder Sharikov
Registered user
Barron Park
on Jan 13, 2021 at 7:39 pm
Shwonder Sharikov, Barron Park
Registered user
on Jan 13, 2021 at 7:39 pm
7 people like this

Good. Finally some lapse of reason. I hope they wouldn’t overthink it and just set a deadline before lowering age instead of trying to account everyone and chase folks.

“ The change of pace is driven by data that overwhelmingly shows older residents are far more likely to fall ill and die when they contract COVID-19.”

Did they hired Sherlock Holmes? One year of looking into it and we finally have this insight:(...


Longtime Resident
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Jan 14, 2021 at 4:54 am
Longtime Resident, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Jan 14, 2021 at 4:54 am
Like this comment

[Post removed.]


NeilsonBuchanan
Registered user
Downtown North
on Jan 14, 2021 at 12:44 pm
NeilsonBuchanan, Downtown North
Registered user
on Jan 14, 2021 at 12:44 pm
2 people like this

Let's be patient and forgiving. This is not a simple process given the traditionally vague powers granted to the Federal, State and Local Governments. In the case of public health, responsibilities have always been confused and overlapping.

Amercian democracy is seldom crystal clear. Covid confusion has been distributed equitably to millions of willing and unwilling citizens.


Barron Parker Too
Registered user
Barron Park
on Jan 14, 2021 at 12:50 pm
Barron Parker Too, Barron Park
Registered user
on Jan 14, 2021 at 12:50 pm
3 people like this

This is amazingly good news! Somehow, reason has prevailed over the foolish and deadly CDC recommendation that young grocery clerks get vaccinated before 74-year-olds.

The fact is that someone who gets covid19 at age 74 is about 100 times more likely than a 20-year old to require hospitalization, end up in the ICU, and die. 100 times!!! With the death rate spiking and our hospitals overfilled, federal, state and county mandates are now -- at last -- aligned to save lives.

The state of California has accepted the new federal guidelines permitting vaccination for anyone 65 and above. Santa Clara County has taken the wise step of making sure that the 75+ cohort is vaccinated first, and then will follow the new federal recommendation to drop the minimum age to 65+.

This is a welcome surprise -- we now, for the first time, appear to have adults in charge of these decisions!


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