In short order, the Mountain View Community Center has transformed from a recreational space to a hub for mass vaccinations, with a goal of providing the COVID-19 vaccine to 1,000 people each day.
The vaccination center at 201 S. Rengstorff Ave. is the latest effort by Santa Clara County to expand access to the vaccine, and the first one located in the north county. Health officials say the site is open as of Friday, and is the third community-based vaccination site hastily set up by the county in recent weeks.
To date, the Santa Clara County health system has administered close to 60,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to county residents, making it by far the largest provider of vaccines in the region. Trailing behind are Stanford Health Care at 32,720 and Kaiser Permanente at 17,648.
Vaccine distribution has primarily taken place at acute care hospitals and in county-run clinics, making the city's community center an early outpost for convenient access outside of a clinical setting. It took significant work in a short amount of time to reconfigure the space into a vaccination center, said Mountain View Mayor Ellen Kamei, relying on a tight partnership between Mountain View and the county.
"Through this collaborative effort we are making it more convenient for Mountain View residents, and others who live and work nearby in the north county, to get vaccinated against this highly contagious virus," Kamei said at a press conference Friday.
The center will be subject to the county's vaccine eligibility criteria, which is still fairly strict and excludes most people with private insurance. County officials have repeatedly said that people who receive care through Kaiser or Sutter Health must request a vaccine through their own health care provider, and that they will likely be turned away at the county-run vaccination sites. Stanford patients, on the other hand, are encouraged to get vaccinations through their own providers but won't be turned away from county sites, according to county Supervisor Joe Simitian.
The county and most health insurers are currently providing vaccines to front-line health care workers and all residents over the age of 75. In the case of Stanford patients, residents age 65 and older are eligible.
Future vaccine supplies are unpredictable and provided by the state on a week-to-week basis, making it difficult to plan ahead or accommodate a crush of new requests for the vaccine, said Dr. Jennifer Tong, associate chief medical officer for Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. The latest allocation for Santa Clara County was 20,000 doses, she said, which is much smaller than anticipated.
What's more, separate allocations are made to private health care providers like Kaiser and Sutter to serve their own patients, making it infeasible for the county to serve all patients with private insurance.
So who can actually take advantage of the new vaccination site in Mountain View? Along with the roughly 300,000 people who are patients of the county's health system, all uninsured residents will be eligible, including service sector workers who can't afford health insurance and those who choose not to be insured, according to county Supervisor Joe Simitian.
The county's original COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan, which was sent to the state last month, did not explicitly call for a site in the north county, instead designating the nine county-run health clinics as "points of distribution." Simitian sharply criticized the wording, and raised concerns that north county residents may not have a local place to receive the vaccine. None of the county health clinics are located in the north county.
Simitian, who represents several north county and west valley cities, said his district has 40,000 low-income residents on Medi-Cal and the largest share of seniors in any district of the county, and underscored the importance of a close and convenient place to receive the vaccine. He touted Mountain View's caring community and "can-do" spirit for filling that public health need.
"We needed a place in the north county to serve the folks that are in our region," Simitian said. "It's very gratifying to know that we're up and running and in short order we'll be at 1,000 vaccinations at just this site."
Anyone seeking to schedule an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine is asked to visit sccfreevax.org, a county-run portal with links to several health care providers.
Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.