The supply of COVID-19 vaccine is slowing considerably and falling far short of demand in Fresno County, health officials said Friday.
Joe Prado, the county’s community health manager , said he requested 38,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine from the state this week, but received only enough supply for 8,000 shots.
“It’s disheartening that that we don’t have the supply available,” Prado said.
As a result, no vaccinations will take place next week at the Fresno Fairgrounds, where thousands received their first inoculation over the past two weeks. Other medical providers that have organized vaccination events have now cancelled their plans, as well.
“The county paused us,” said Rick Lembo with of Sierra Pacific Orthopedic Center, which offered drive-through vaccination events in recent days. People in cars began lining up as early as midnight on days when shots were offered and sometimes reached capacity limits before the first dose was even administered.
“It’s disheartening that that we don’t have the supply available.”–Fresno County Community Health Manager Joe Prado
“California is struggling,” admits Fresno County interim health officer Dr. Rais Vohra. “There is certainly a struggle to get the vaccines supply to the number of people that are eligible.”
‘Operation Warp Speed’ Allocations
Vohra believes it’s not just a California problem, but a nationwide crisis. He says the way ‘Operation Warp Speed’ is set up, vaccine is being allocated week by week based on how much is being manufactured.
“Every week, Operation Warp Speed tells California, ‘this is your state allocation,'” explains Vohra. “And then the state of California turns around and tells the local health jurisdictions, the multi county entities, etc., ‘this is your weekly allocation for this week based on what Operation Warp Speed told us.'”
Vohra says planning the distribution week by week is very difficult considering the fact that every recipient needs a two dose regimen of the vaccine.
Lembo said enough supply remains available to make sure people are fully protected.
“Everyone that has received the first vaccination at SPOC is scheduled to receive the second, there will be no disruption. SPOC has the doses,” he said.
The slowdown in availability comes as California ranks at the bottom of a Bloomberg news service tracker that monitors vaccination rates across the country. Last week’s 50th-ranked state was Alabama.
Still, county health officials are hopeful the bottleneck will be resolved and the fairgrounds, and possibly other vaccination clinics, can reopen the week of February 1.
Fresno County Exceeds 1,000 COVID Deaths
This week, Fresno County passed a grim milestone, reaching 1,043 COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.
“It’s heartbreaking,” says Vohra.
The San Joaquin Valley region’s intensive care bed capacity remains at 0% according to state data. In Fresno County, 584 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized.
“Every week, Operation Warp Speed tells California this is your state allocation.”–Fresno County interim health officer Dr. Rais Vohra
Scheduling Second Doses
A statewide system that Fresno County ties into to electronically schedule second doses became too problematic for the county to continue using.
As a result, Vohra says a change in process for how to schedule those second doses will be implemented. Right after a patient gets their first vaccine dose, they must wait at least 15 minutes to make sure there are no side effects. Vohra says that’s a perfect opportunity to get someone signed up for their next dose.
Prado says the county is also looking at new software methods to automate the process moving forward.
“The technology is there,” says Prado. “We’re going to have to package that together with some other ancillary systems as well.”
In other words, Prado and his team have to rig up a system to meet their needs. Ideally, it would be a system that automatically texts and sends voice messages to phones with a reminder of second shot appointments.
“It’s a pretty massive IT challenge,” says Vohra.
Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Would Be Ideal
GV Wire℠ asked Prado if the potential of a one-shot vaccine by Johnson and Johnson would help with the backlog he’s already facing.
“You see the grin on my face,” Prado answered. “Honestly, it’s going to make vaccination a lot faster.”
Prado says this vaccine would be ideal in the farmworker population. He also sees it as a way to hit a goal of getting 600,000 people in the county vaccinated by July.
KGO-TV in the Bay Area reports the vaccine from Johnson & Johnson would be first to be given in a single shot, without requiring a booster. It’s been in clinical trial at sites across the country, including Stanford. And on Wednesday night, researchers say they’ve been given the word to lock the data they’ve gathered so the company can quickly begin the review process.
“They will review the data in an un-blinded fashion to see if the medication looks effective,” says Dr. Philip Grant, M.D., who is leading a trial of the vaccine at Stanford.