California is in line to get yet-another federally supported mass vaccination site, and Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday this one is coming to the Central Valley.
Rep. Jim Costa already has a spot for it — he says the large parking lot at the Save Mart Center at Fresno State is a viable location for bringing in large numbers of people for COVID-19 vaccinations.
“It’s gotten very positive response from the (California) Office of Emergency Services and checking all the boxes that FEMA is requiring for a mega vaccination center,” Costa, D-Fresno, told GV Wire℠ by Zoom on Monday afternoon.
“With most of the campus engaged in virtual school these days, there’s space, a lot of space there that creates a lot of flexibility.” – Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno
The community vaccination sites are state-run and federally supported by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Costa said he participated in meetings with the White House and Newsom’s office this past Friday and Saturday. “I believe California is going to have at least four sites, and I think it will happen sooner than later,” he said.
Newsom talked about the importance of mass vaccination sites during a news event Monday at San Diego’s Petco Park vaccination super station.
“We’ll be announcing in the next number of days a new site in the Central Valley,” he said.
Just last week, Newsom announced sites operated by FEMA and the California OES would be in Oakland and Los Angeles.
He specifically said the Oakland site would administer 6,000 vaccine shots a day starting Feb. 16. Those doses would be in addition to what Alameda County is already allocated, because the vaccine will be coming directly from the federal government.
Costa says a site in Fresno would be very similar.
Assembly Member Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, issued a statement after the governor’s announcement on Monday.
“It looks like we got the governor’s attention about vaccinations in Central California” said Patterson. “We have to have between 50,000 and 60,000 doses every single week in order to quickly open up our economy.”
Save Mart Center Selling Points
“It looks like we got the governor’s attention about vaccinations in Central California.” — Assembly Member Jim Patterson, R-Fresno
Costa says the Save Mart Center offers many multipurpose rooms inside that can be utilized.
The Save Mart Center Arena encompasses nearly 430,000 square feet with three primary levels. More than 2,900 parking spaces are available in the north lots off of Matoian Avenue and the East lot off of Chestnut Avenue. There are 53 accessible parking spaces for guests with disabilities.
“With most of the campus engaged in virtual school these days, there’s space, a lot of space there, that creates a lot of flexibility,” said Costa. “These FEMA centers are designed, when fully operational, to provide 6,000 vaccines a day.”
He noted that the large parking lot outside the Save Mart Center would allow for a lot of movement of both people and cars, which would make the site optimal for large numbers of vaccinations.
Costa said he’s been told each FEMA site is assigned two mobile units. Each unit is capable of administering 500 doses of vaccine when fully ramped up.
All of these would be “additive” vaccines, meaning they would supplement what the county of Fresno is already receiving.
Costa believes the site and two mobile units could ultimately administer a total of 7,000 vaccines daily.
Mobile Units Would Help Farm Communities
“We’ll be announcing in the next number of days a new site in the Central Valley.”– Gov. Gavin Newsom
The two mobile units assigned to a FEMA site would have the ability to operate in multiple counties throughout the Central Valley, Costa said.
He sees them as vital to getting into rural farm communities that are part of the essential workforce.
“We need to protect them. They are essential workers and we should treat them that way,” Costa said.
On Jan. 25, a group of 50 Fresno County agricultural workers were vaccinated against COVID-19 at the Pappas Family Farm in Mendota. They were some of the first farmworkers to be vaccinated, but represented only .07% of Fresno County’s 70,000 farm and food production workers.
During a video call with reporters on Friday, Fresno County community health manager Joe Prado said 80%-90% of the food and ag population are saying yes to getting vaccinated. For now, different clinical partners are helping distribute what little vaccine is currently available.
Prado said federally qualified health centers like Valley Health Team and United Healthcare of the San Joaquin Valley have filled a vital role.
Safeway has stepped up and is helping with vaccinations at Foster Farms, and the Fresno State mobile team went out to vaccinate farmworkers on Friday, he said.
“This is how we build a distribution system,” Prado said. “By bringing different partners to the table.”
Vaccine Production Ramping Up
Costa said the federal government is pushing to boost vaccine production in the next two to three weeks and get 15% more vaccine to every state in the country.
“The numbers of vaccines will, I believe, increase in the next month and in the next few months,” he said.
He’s also hopeful that after an FDA advisory panel meets on Feb, 26, a one-dose vaccine manufactured by Johnson & Johnson will become available in March.
“They’ve got to go through the process just as the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines did,” said Costa. “We want to make sure that we comply with all the various Food and Drug Administration requirements to ensure that the vaccines are safe.”