Health

Limited COVID-19 vaccine distribution hurts San Benito recovery

The county ranks 49th in the number of doses available for residents.

San Benito County is in the bottom 10% of vaccinations administered in California, ranking 49th out of the state’s 58 counties. Two out of the five counties surrounding San Benito— Merced and Monterey— rank at or near the bottom third in the state.

According to California Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, the state distributes vaccines to counties based on a formula that factors which age or occupational groups are at greatest risk and how vulnerable the community is to transmission due to lack of available health care.

The graph below compares San Benito County with surrounding counties, as well as the highest and lowest ranked counties. The figures are current as of Feb 22.

Rank

County

Population

# Vaccinated

Per 100k

% Vaccinated

1

Mono »

14,174

7,337

51,763.80

51.76%

8

Santa Cruz »

273,766

67,893

24,799.70

24.80%

26

Santa Clara »

1,922,196

375,087

19,513.40

19.51%

36

Fresno »

978,132

158,017

16,155.00

16.16%

44

Monterey »

433,213

58,231

13,441.70

13.44%

49

San Benito »

59,416

7,145

12,025.40

12.02%

56

Merced »

269,075

28,724

10,675.10

10.68%

58

Kings »

17,540

11,206

7,466.90

7.47%

On Feb. 12, San Benito County Supervisor Mark Medina personally delivered a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office, signed by all five supervisors, requesting the state provide more vaccine doses to the county. The letter pointed out that, at the time, San Benito ranked 16th among California counties in COVID-19 cases per capita.

“I have no idea where the disparity comes from,” Medina said. “You would think that they would consider what is best for the population and use that to divide the vaccine between the 58 counties. At this point they need to reevaluate the percentages, at least making all the counties equal.”

Medina does not fault the local providers for the problems in getting more people vaccinated.

“I honestly think the distribution model is working,” he said. “We just have a lack of vaccines to put in people’s arms. I am asking for a meeting with the governor to have a face-to-face meeting to try to get those vaccines.”

Courtesy of SBC Public Health Services.
Courtesy of SBC Public Health Services.

According to information released by the state, seniors 65 and over have received 49.7% of the vaccinations so far. People between 18-49 years old have received 33.5% and those between 50-64 years old have received 16.8%. Those under 18 are listed at 0%. Men have received 38.9% of the vaccinations, women have received 60.4%, and 0.7% declined to state a gender. 

According to the U.S. Census, San Benito County has a higher percentage of Latino residents than the state average—60.8%, versus 32.8%. Latinos in San Benito account for 80% of COVID cases, compared to 13.6% for whites.

But state figures make it difficult to establish the total number of vaccinations given to Latinos in San Benito County. According to a state report, Latinos have received 25.3% of all vaccinations given in the county. However, 30.1% of all vaccinated in the county declined to state their ethnicity.

The Centers for Disease Control reports that data relating to race or ethnicity is only available for 24,007,713 out of the 44,138,118 people who have received one or more doses, as of Feb 22. This translates to 54.4% of the cases.

The CDC attributes the missing information on “inconsistent collection of race and ethnicity information at the time of vaccination, differences in state data electronic data programs, as well as some jurisdictional policies or laws that do not allow demographic data to be reported.”

“This has become a statewide problem,” said San Benito County Public Health Officer David Ghilarducci. “Some vaccination sites are apparently not inputting this information as required. The state has been re-communicating this requirement.”

In their letter to the governor, San Benito supervisors mention that the county has begun working with state Senator Anna Caballero, Assemblyman Robert Rivas and farmworker advocates and growers to create a program to vaccinate agricultural workers. Farmworkers are particularly vulnerable to the virus with an increased risk of becoming infected because of working conditions that break social distancing, overcrowded housing, and less access to health care.

Letter to the Governor from the San Benito County Board of Supervisors.

Letter to the Governor from the San Benito County Board of Supervisors.
Letter to the Governor from the San Benito County Board of Supervisors.

 

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Robert Eliason

I’ve been a freelance photographer since my dad stuck a camera in my hand on the evening of my First Grade Open House. My dad taught me to observe, empathize, then finally compose the shot.   I have had gallery showings and done commercial work but photojournalism is a wonderful challenge in storytelling.   The editors at BenitoLink have encouraged me to write stories about things that interest me, turning me into a reporter as well.  It is a great creative family that cares deeply about the San Benito community.