Orange County officials launched another mass coronavirus vaccination site Wednesday at the fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, while community clinics continue worrying about supply levels.
It’s the fourth large vaccination site since officials rolled out the first one at Disneyland in January.
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“If you follow the state website on the vaccine, as of two days ago, Orange County has put more than 1.5 million doses in arms. That is significant,” county health officer Dr. Clayton Chau said at a Wednesday news conference.
“We now have close to 1.1 million Orange County residents with the vaccine and more than half million have completed their cycle,” he added.
It also comes on the heels of people 50 and older being able to get vaccinated starting Thursday, regardless of medical conditions.
Supervisor Andrew Do said more than half of the vaccinations throughout OC have been done by sites outside of the county’s mass vaccination sites.
“In fact hundreds of thousands of our residents have gotten shots from local hospitals, clinics and pharmacies,” Do said during the news conference. “More than 50% of the vaccines have been distributed in Orange County have been administered by providers other than the county.”
Some local health clinic leaders are worried about vaccine supply levels now that Blue Shield is taking over the statewide distribution system.
“We finally got a contract yesterday and signed the contract with Blue Shield. But we don’t know when we’re going to get our first shipment from Blue Shield,” said Alexander Rossel, CEO of Families Together of Orange County.
He said missing a week of vaccinations could throw a wrench into their progress.
“We are hoping not to miss a week of vaccinations because that would be detrimental to our efforts,” Rossel said in a Wednesday phone interview. “We already hit 20,000 vaccines and we’re doing more than 3,00 vaccines a week.”
Meanwhile, state health officials are further targeting heavily impacted communities by including more working class neighborhoods in the mass vaccination effort.
State officials also relaxed some of the restrictions — giving vaccine providers, like local health clinics, more discretion on who they can vaccinate.
Isabel Becerra, CEO of the Coalition of Orange County Community Health Centers, said the changes are welcomed because it will allow the clinics to vaccinate more vulnerable people who may live just outside of OC’s four targeted zip codes.
“You’re a person who qualifies by age, by chronic condition, but you happen to live in the wrong zip code, but are in the same city that’s a hot spot. That’s the same question providers struggle with,” Becerra said Friday. “Now we’ll be able to vaccinate that person.”
The local health clinics and neighborhood vaccination centers have been key in vaccinating the hardest hit communities.
Supervisor Doug Chaffee praised the mobile vaccination efforts.
“We’re very concerned about the equitable distribution of vaccines to the areas that are hardest hit,” Chaffee said at the Wednesday news conference, adding that the mobile sites are “how we get equity into the equation.”
County officials vaccinated roughly 400 Stanton residents Wednesday, according to a city news release.
“The Stanton City Council pushed to fill the gap for residents that could not make it to the super PODs throughout Orange County. This effort offered a local and familiar option, made possible through a partnership between the City of Stanton and the Orange County Health Care Agency,” reads the release.
Communities like Stanton have been hit hard by the pandemic.
Rossel said giving the clinics more discretion will provide for more communities, like Stanton, who were initially left out of the state’s equity efforts.
“That’s going to allow us, pretty much, to vaccinate the whole population. That actually will allow the community clinics to work with the patient and to really outreach the way we know how to do it,” Rossel said.
Meanwhile, virus hospitalizations have been hovering around 140 this week.
As of Wednesday, 141 people were hospitalized, including 26 in intensive care units.
That’s the lowest it’s been in almost a year.
The virus has now killed 4,744 people — more than eight times what the flu kills on a yearly average.
COVID deaths have now surpassed average yearly cancer deaths in OC.
It’s also killed more than heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and strokes do on a yearly average, respectively.
Orange County has averaged around 20,000 deaths a year since 2016, including 543 annual flu deaths, according to state health data.
Last year, more than 24,400 OC residents died, according to the latest state health data.
According to the state death statistics, cancer kills over 4,600 people, heart disease kills over 2,800, more than 1,400 die from Alzheimer’s disease and strokes kill over 1,300 people.
Here’s the latest on the virus numbers across Orange County from county data:
Infections | Hospitalizations & Deaths | City-by-City Data
Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC staff reporter. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpencerCustodio
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