San Benito County held its largest mass vaccination clinic so far on March 7 where 700 individuals received the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccines were distributed among four sectors in Phase 1B of the state’s vaccination plan—agriculture and food, education, emergency services, and people 65 and older.
According to California Department of Public Health data, 10,809 San Benito County residents have received the COVID-19 vaccine as of March 7. This includes residents who received inoculations outside the county.
San Benito County Public Information Officer David Westrick said each sector was allocated 200 doses on March 7 except for emergency services, which received 100 doses. Each sector also organized the scheduling of those eligible to be vaccinated.
Public Health Services Deputy Director Lynn Melo said at the March 9 meeting of the San Benito County Board of Supervisors that there were 38 no shows, but the county was able to administer the doses to tier-eligible residents that were on standby. Health and Human Services Agency Director Tracey Belton also noted all but about five emergency services employees in the county have been vaccinated.
The drive-thru vaccination clinic took place at Bolado Park starting at 9 a.m. where over 100 volunteers separated into two shifts helped with traffic control, checking in patients, administering vaccines and post vaccination observation. The clinic lasted around four hours.
Westrick said among those giving the shots were staff from San Benito County Public Health Services and school nurses.
One of the challenges in conducting mass vaccinations is not knowing how many doses the county will have on a given week. Westrick said the county knows its inventory only one week prior to distribution. For the week of March 8, San Benito County is allocated 1,700 doses from the state.
Another challenge is the risk of wasting doses if patients don’t show up. Like other jurisdictions, San Benito County has a back up list of tier-eligible residents in case there are leftover doses. Westrick said the county has not had to scramble due to no-shows.
As cars entered Bolado Park through its north entrance into one of five lanes, the longest wait patients experienced was before and after getting vaccinated, which included a 15-minute observation period. Those with preexisting conditions were observed by staff for 30 minutes for any reactions to the COVID vaccine.
The process of driving up to get vaccinated took about a minute per patient as staff verified identities. The clinic was conducted on an appointment-only basis.
Westrick said San Benito County will continue to explore mobile vaccination clinics in which they go to specific sector employees, as was the case when the county vaccinated Earthbound Farms employees on Feb. 25.
While San Benito is still vaccinating in Phase 1B, the California Department of Public health announced in mid-February that it will extend vaccinations to Phase 1C on March 15 to include residents ages 16-64 with underlying conditions deemed at high risk from COVID-19.
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