Marin will have to work overtime to keep pace with California’s plans to roll out the Covid-19 vaccines, thanks to its large aging population. Almost half of Marin’s population is prioritized to start receiving a vaccine as early as March based on the criteria of being age 50 or older. On Tuesday, Dr. Matt Willis, Marin’s public health officer, told supervisors that he did not anticipate delays locally.
“We can move vaccine as quickly as we receive it,” he said. “The absolute biggest challenge we are experiencing right now is the supply.”
So far, Marin has received 21,808 doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines and, by this coming Sunday, it will have administered or assigned to be administered nearly all of them.
Since the first shipment arrived on Dec. 15, the county has focused on vaccinating staff at hospitals and skilled nursing facilities, first responders, and the rest of the health care workforce. That group comprises about 30,000 people.
Dr. Willis said he has been petitioning the state for more doses after demonstrating that the county was able to distribute them in a timely way. While Marin is keeping up with the amount of vaccine it receives, California as a whole has only vaccinated 2.1 percent of its population, falling behind rates in other parts of the country due to a range of challenges.
The county is planning to follow three phases of vaccine distribution that the state laid out. Currently, Marin is working through the first of three tiers comprising phase one, which targets health care and emergency workers.
At the end of January, Marin will turn to vaccinating the second tier of phase one. That group itself has two parts: first, those who are 75 and over or are at risk of exposure in the education, childcare, food and agriculture, and emergency services sectors; and second, those who are between 64 and 75, homeless, or working in transportation, critical manufacturing, or jails and prisons. The second tier comprises an additional 100,000 people whom the county hopes to have vaccinated with both doses by the end of February.
Currently, vaccines are mostly being given at the Marin Center, where the county has averaged 800 doses a day. With additional help from emergency personnel and the Marin Medical Reserve Corp, a group of retired professionals, the county plans to scale up vaccinations to 2,000 doses a day at the center. Other sites, referred to as points of dispensing, are popping up as needed, such as one at the Point Reyes firehouse for emergency personnel.
The county anticipates that by March, the third tier in the first phase of distribution will start receiving a vaccine: those age 50 and older, and those between age 16 and 64 who have underlying health conditions or a disability that increases their risk of severe Covid-19 illness or death, such as cancer, Down syndrome or chronic kidney disease. That group encompasses another 70,000 people, and together with the other groups represents the lion’s share of the county’s population. Just around a fifth of the county residents will remain.
In Marin, 46 percent of the population is 50 or above, compared to 33 percent in California.
Not all vaccine doses will be administered by the county public health department. The state is expanding partnerships, Governor Newsom said this week, looking to the National Guard, pharmacies, clinics and medical professionals from a variety of fields who are willing to receive training. A federal program to vaccinate non-medical staff and residents at care homes for the elderly through a partnership with CVS Pharmacy and Walgreens is rolling out.
County spokeswoman Laine Hendricks said the county hopes to partner with groups like the Coastal Health Alliance to provide residents with local options.
Beginning in the late spring, the remaining residents in Marin who fall into the second phase will be prioritized according to health conditions that put them at moderately higher risk, followed by younger adults, who make up the third phase. The details for these later phases are currently painted with a broad brush.
“This is going to take a countywide, disaster approach—a wartime-like effort,” said Marin County Fire Captain Todd Overshiner, who is helping to organize the department’s assistance with vaccine administration. He was among those who received the vaccine, but he said he hasn’t experienced much sense of relief. “That hasn’t really hit yet, because there’s still so much work to be done,” he said.
The number of Marin residents diagnosed with the virus each day is steadily rising, with counts far surpassing those during the July surge. The total case count is approaching 9,000, with 118 deaths. There are now 19 active cases across West Marin, bringing the total cases on the coast up to 131 since last March.
Marin remains less impacted than the state as a whole in terms of case rates, hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions, but the effects of the surge are regional. The percent of tests coming back positive in Marin is 4.7 percent; statewide, that rate has grown to 15 percent. Marin has 10 percent I.C.U. capacity, while the Bay Area has 4 percent capacity; southern California and the San Joaquin Valley have reached capacity. State hospitalizations have increased sevenfold in the past two months.
Ninety-one percent of California residents are under an indefinite stay-at-home order that was put into effect last Friday following a three-week order, until I.C.U. capacity becomes less critical.
Go to coronavirus.marinhhs.org/vaccine/distribution to find out when you can be vaccinated.