As Governor Gavin Newsom was touting the benefits of new FEMA mass distribution vaccine sites in Oakland and Los Angeles, officials at the Fresno County Department of Public Health were left scratching their heads as to why the Central Valley was left out.
“Fresno County was not chosen to host a FEMA site,” said Health Manager Joe Prado during a Wednesday call with reporters. “We’ll continue to request that.”
“We’re looking at first doses starting again at the Fresno Fairgrounds the week of February 15th.”–Fresno County Community Health Manager Joe Prado
Newsom said the Oakland site should be able to administer around 6,000 shots each day. Meanwhile, Prado is trying to manage the Fresno County’s allocation of just 8,000 doses per week — only enough for people waiting for their second shot.
“We’re looking at first doses starting again at the Fresno Fairgrounds the week of February 15th” says Prado.
GV Wire℠ asked Prado why the county is not getting a FEMA site that would increase available doses beyond the 8,000 currently being received.
“Fresno County meets every criteria of an equity lens,” answered Prado. “We’re one of the more impoverished communities in the state of California, we have a distribution system in place that can meet the needs of additional dose allocation. So I just feel Fresno County, with an exclamation point, could manage additional doses.”
Prado says if the county would need to receive 50,000 to 60,000 doses each week to reach the goal of vaccinating 650,000 people by August 1. That’s the target for to achieving widespread immunity against COVID-19.
Making matters more difficult, the state is changing the way it calculates how much vaccine each county will receive and Fresno County stands to receive even fewer doses than it currently gets.
By February 16, the state will completely remove the health care worker population from its calculation and only base vaccine allocations on the number of people 65 and older who reside in the county.
This means Fresno County will actually get less vaccine than it is currently receiving.
- Healthcare workers and those over 65 make up about 2.26% of the county’s population
- The 65 and older population by itself (which the state will base allocation on in mid-February) makes up just 2.09% of the county’s population
“It’s actually a reduction to the Fresno County allocation when we actually go to the 65 plus allocation formula,” explains Prado. “That’s something we don’t like at Fresno County.”
County Supervisor Magsig: “Central Valley Is Not a Priority”
“Our governor, as well as our legislature, has made clear that the Central Valley is not a priority, regardless of what metric you want to use.”–Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig
Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig says Fresno County was never getting its fair share of the vaccine.
“Our governor, as well as our legislature, has made clear that the Central Valley is not a priority, regardless of what metric you want to use,” said Magsig.
He says under the current state metric, the county is not getting a proportionate share of the vaccine even based upon the population of Fresno County, which represents about two and a half percent of all state residents.
“We should be getting two and a half percent of the doses the state gets. We never got that,” says Magsig. He says the county has the ability to administer more vaccinations, there’s just not enough doses being provided.
He says the new state metric based on the population of those 65 and older will make things worse.
“Here in the Central Valley, typically we have younger families compared to the rest of the state,” he says. “But we also have the most vulnerable populations, people who deal with asthma, people who have diabetes, people who deal with high blood pressure. And in addition, we have the number one agricultural workforce.”
Magsig believes the new state allocation formula will benefit Northern and Southern California the most. He also says it makes no logical sense that Fresno County would not be identified as a site for a FEMA vaccination site.
On January 26, the County Board of Supervisors sent a letter to Newsom pleading for more vaccine.
Magsig says the Board has yet to receive a response.
Educators Pushed Into March
County educators were originally scheduled to get vaccinated in February. Due to a lack of vaccine, it is unlikely that target will be met.
“Realistically, I don’t see the educational community here happening in February,” said Prado. “If we continue to receive 8,000 doses a week by the end of March, we will have received roughly 177,000 doses. That barely gets us to the 65 and over population.”
Prado believes those in the educational community may not get vaccinated until late March or even into April. He said that assumes the vaccine produced by Johnson & Johnson receives an emergency use authorization from the federal government, which will increase the total amount of vaccine available.
Gaston Middle School Site
Fresno County is launching a new vaccination site at Gaston Middle School the week of February 15.
The site will be brought online just in time to offer another spot for those 65 and older to get vaccinated. Prado says it is a very short walk from the parking lot to the gym which will hopefully make it very accessible for that population.
The county asks people to fill out an online interest form in advance of the site’s opening day using this link.