Humboldt County expects to move into the next phase of COVID-19 vaccine distribution next week, opening the door to anyone age 75 or older to get immunized.
During a press conference this afternoon, Health Officer Ian Hoffman said that while state and federal guidelines have changed to include anyone over the age of 65 into this phase of vaccine distribution, Humboldt County is not yet taking that step and is opting to first focus on vaccinating residents 75 and older as quickly as possible.
“There’s currently not enough vaccine,” Hoffman said.
The vaccine requires a two-dose process, with a second dose administered 21 days after the first. Hoffman said the county currently has about 5,200 vaccine doses on hand — 1,700 first doses and another 3,500 doses that were set aside for people who have already received the first. The county has been receiving about 1,000 to 2,000 doses a week from the state, but Hoffman said he’s been told that number is expected to increase to 3,000 to 4,000 doses next week.
But that would still leave Humboldt County short of the volume needed to vaccinate the entire over-65 population locally, as Hoffman said there are about 10,000 local residents over the age of 75 and another 16,000 ages 65 to 74. That, Hoffman said, is why the county has opted to continue with its plan to focus on residents age 75 and older rather than immediately making the vaccine available to more people.
Hoffman said local residents over the age of 75 will be contacted by their healthcare providers to schedule a vaccination appointment.
“I have instructed them to, if possible, bring them in based on risk factors,” Hoffman said, explaining that he hopes those with underlying health conditions will be prioritized. “Those who do not have a healthcare provider locally, we will accommodate those people through a combination of Public Health and other community partners.”
As far as the first phase of vaccine distribution, Hoffman said Public Health estimates there are roughly 10,000 healthcare providers in Humboldt County and all of them have been offered the vaccine, with roughly 70 percent already having received it.
Moving forward, Hoffman said the number of vaccine doses the county receives will determine how quickly it can vaccinate more people, explaining that in addition to those aged 65 to 74, essential workers like school teachers, will be next in line. In addition to the local providers approved to administer vaccines, he said Public Health has opened a vaccination clinic that can administer about 750 doses a week, with plans to expand to 1,750.
Ultimately, though, Hoffman said the vaccine administration infrastructure will have to be expanded substantially to get to the point where the county can administer the thousands of doses a week needed to quickly immunize the general population.
“We’re hopeful the federal government will come through with their promise to get us more vaccine,” he said.