Vaccine coming to 65 and up next week

02/10/2021

Marin boasts one of the highest rates of vaccine distribution statewide, but eligibility criteria have remained restricted to the needs of its aging population. Next week, the county will lower the qualifying minimum age from 75 to 65, aligning with standards already adopted by most counties in the region. 

Next week’s expansion will double the eligible age demographic from 11 percent of the population to 22 percent. It also marks a change from the blueprint for roll out that Marin adopted based on state guidance last month: The county initially planned to include workers in certain essential industries—education, childcare, food, agriculture, and emergency services—in the next round of vaccinations. 

“Limitations in supply indicated that we needed to fall back and focus on preventing death as our primary organizer, rather than focusing on younger residents who are at a much lower risk of death but at higher risk of infection,” said Dr. Matt Willis, Marin’s public health officer. “Right now, because of the limited supply and the need for extreme rationing, we really have to focus our strategy on saving lives.”

Should supply increase, workers in the prioritized essential industries will again be considered for vaccination. Already, around 14 percent of residents have received a first dose of a vaccine, compared to 10 percent of Californians. In December, the county began offering vaccines to health care workers and first responders, before turning to residents 75 and older. By the time the age limit drops next week, two thirds of the oldest residents will be vaccinated; the remainder, and those 65 and older with higher-risk conditions, will continue to be prioritized. 

The state, which is receiving a federal supply of vaccines, is distributing vaccines both to the county health department and to Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Health regional offices, the latter of which moved to the lower age range last week independently. 

Out of the 42,222 doses of vaccine administered to Marin residents by Feb. 5, 38 percent were given by the county, 21 percent were given at the three local hospitals, 9 percent were given by C.V.S. and Walgreens, and 31 percent took place outside of Marin, such as to health care professionals who work in other counties. 

Marin is exploring ways to increase accessibility, including by creating a mass vaccination drive-through site and ramping up mobile vaccination teams. 

Tomorrow, the Coastal Health Alliance will conduct a pilot program at the Dance Palace in collaboration with the county, administering 50 doses of the Moderna vaccine. C.H.A. is prioritizing patients who are over 75 and are particularly at risk due to a medical condition, or who are uninsured. While the nonprofit conducted its own outreach to patients that met the criteria, the phone has been relentlessly ringing for weeks with people wondering when they can get vaccinated. 

“The front desk is getting so many calls with people just frantic to get it and wanting to know when they can get it,” said Christina Gomez-Mira, the new lead doctor at C.H.A. “We have had some conversations about vaccine safety and the trials, but less than I expected, really, with most of the conservations centering around when people will have access to the vaccine.”

C.H.A. staff will determine tomorrow how quickly they can vaccinate people. The hope is to dedicate Fridays to vaccinations, and to scale up from 50 doses if the county has the supply to allocate. 

Skip Schwartz, the executive director of West Marin Senior Services, said that the dozen employees who work at Stockstill House had received at least one dose, and the residents were set to get initial doses later this week from the county’s mobile teams. Helping seniors on the coast access the vaccine was his priority.

“People are homebound, they have difficulty with transportation, they are isolated or not comfortable with technology and the internet,” Mr. Schwartz said. 

Transmission of Covid-19 continues to fall from an all-time high in Marin and the state in January. Marin, like the majority of California counties, is in the most stringent tier of regulation, but Dr. Willis hopes the county will move into the red by mid-February.

The red tier would allow restaurants to open for indoor dining at limited capacity and middle schools and high schools to reopen campuses.   

Eighty-seven percent of Marin’s schools are offering students at least some in-person instruction on campus. According to data maintained by Marin’s public health department and education office, there have been only 10 cases of suspected in-school transmission to date. Five were between students, three were between staff, and two were transmitted from an adult to a student. There have been no known cases of student-to-adult transmission. 

 

Fill out the vaccine interest form at coronavirus.marinhhs.org/vaccine.