Orange County officials will close all four vaccination supersites spread throughout the county after what they say is a huge drop in people getting their shots at the sites.
“The demand for first-dose COVID-19 vaccinations through the Othena platform at County Super Point-of-Dispensing (POD) sites have dropped by over 75% since the end of April. This indicates that county residents who want the vaccines and do not face difficulty traveling to the Super PODs have, for the most part, been able to do so,” reads a Thursday news release.
OC health officials plan on hosting more neighborhood vaccination clinics in the coming weeks and the last day for the super sites is June 5.
“Further efforts to achieve mass immunity will require that Orange County Health Care Agency (HCA) focus on more community and neighborhood-based vaccination strategies. This will mean working to overcome vaccine resistance and creating more mobile PODs, with greater outreach, to make vaccination more convenient for people to get vaccinated where they live, work and play,” reads the Thursday news release.
County CEO Frank Kim said the move to a neighborhood clinic model won’t reduce the number of vaccines available, but instead spread the supplies around and bring it closer to people.
“We think that there’s an opportunity now for us to shift to a mobile platform and instead of just serving the underequity populations via a mobile platform. We can do it for everybody in Orange County,” Kim said during a Thursday media briefing. “We can be in more areas and reach different segments of county residents.”
OC public health officials said the drop in demand also stems from pharmacies and hospitals getting increased supplies.
Dr. Margaret Bredehoft, deputy director of the OC Health Care Agency, said health officials plan on “doubling the number of neighborhood clinics.”
Officials expect that to be almost 40 different community vaccination clinics throughout Orange County a week.
The announcement comes after county Health Officer Dr. Clayton Chau told county supervisors at their meeting last week that local health officials may refocus their efforts on smaller neighborhood vaccination clinics.
Last Saturday, the county began offering walk-in shots to people at the vaccination supersites.
Meanwhile, some local health experts fear not enough people will be vaccinated by the expected June 15 reopening.
“Will we reach herd immunity? Oh my gosh, I have no idea. And more importantly we’re not an isolated community,” UC Irvine epidemiologist Daniel Parker said in a Wednesday phone interview. “We’re strongly connected to other populations that have their own vaccine uptick.”
Deputy county Health Officer, Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong, said as long as demand holds up, the county should be able to vaccinate about 70% of the 3.2 million residents by the June 15 reopening date.
“We’re fighting against time to minimize transmission … it is attainable if the demand is there. That puts us at a rate of about 16,000 doses [a day] for new people in our community to get vaccinated here on out until June 15,” Chinsio-Kwong said during Thursday’s media briefing. “Our county was able to deliver 40,000 doses on any given day.”
Meanwhile, local health clinics are already facing a funding crisis, along with the community organizations that help them set up the neighborhood vaccination clinics and help register people.
During Thursday’s media briefing, county officials said they’ll reallocate some of the funding and resources used for the super sites to community clinics.
“We’re all applying for everything out there, but there’s no proactive efforts either at the local or state level. I’d like to see more of the local organizations, local funders step up to the plate and recognize the efforts that the local nonprofits are doing. It all starts in your backyard,” said Isabel Becerra, CEO of the Coalition of Orange County Community Health Centers, in a Tuesday phone interview.
Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC staff reporter. You can reach him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @SpencerCustodio