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County Vaccination Sites Bring Health Care Workers Some Relief

A health care worker getting vaccinated for COVID-19 at the Petco Park, San Diego County vaccination super station, on Jan. 11, 2021.
County of San Diego
A health care worker getting vaccinated for COVID-19 at the Petco Park, San Diego County vaccination super station, on Jan. 11, 2021.

The newly launched mass vaccination site at San Diego’s Petco Park gave health care workers easy access to get a COVID-19 vaccine, but the location won’t yet be expanded to serve older adults despite the governor declaring them eligible.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday announced that older Californians could receive a vaccine.

County Vaccination Sites Bring Healthcare Workers Some Relief
Listen to this story by Tarryn Mento.

“Individuals 65 and older are now the next group eligible to start receiving vaccines,” Newsom said in a statement. “To those not yet eligible for vaccines, your turn is coming. We are doing everything we can to bring more vaccine into the state.”

But later in the afternoon, San Diego County officials said its vaccination sites were not prepared to move beyond health care workers.

“We will at this point continue to work through health workers. We hope in the near future to be able to expand that to seniors 65 and older but we have not finished our health care workers,” Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said.

For medical personnel, the Petco Park super site that launched on Monday and the county’s four other smaller locations around the region is a successful model.

Dr. Holly Yang, president of the San Diego County Medical Society, said not all health care employees work at facilities that have the vaccine, leaving them to search elsewhere. But Yang says the opportunity at the home of the Padres cut through the confusion.

“The level of anxiety and worry around that has significantly improved,” Yang said.

That doesn’t mean all health care workers have received the vaccine but it has made it simpler to find.

“My anecdotal evidence is that our phone calls have gone way down at the County Medical Society around sort of how I navigate the system, and now people know where to go,” she said.

But Yang said access will again be a challenge for the next priority group of older adults.

“You don't want just everyone who can access everything on their phone and has access to a car are the only people who get vaccinated. You need to think about the people that are harder to reach,” Yang said.

She said that includes those who speak a language other than English, don’t have the tech savvy to make an online appointment or are homebound and can’t travel.

County officials have said they’ll work with partner organizations to get the word out, including community health care workers that focus on immigrant populations, and will have mobile vaccination teams.

Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten said the county intends to open its sites to older adults “very soon” but that depends on vaccine supply.

Providers may move forward on vaccinating patients that fit that criteria, but Fletcher said it is unlikely they will offer that right away.

In a statement, Scripps Health said its hospitals will contact patients when they are ready to begin those vaccinations.