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LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Vaccines | Racial Justice

County Making Changes To Address Slowing COVID-19 Vaccine Demand

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KPBS health reporter Matt Hoffman joined Midday Edition on Monday to discuss how San Diego County is trying to adapt to the slowing demand for vaccines.

Speaker 1: 00:00 New COVID-19 cases continue to decrease as vaccinations increase. That's true here in San Diego County, where 1 million people have been fully vaccinated and it's also true across the nation, but there is still concern. Public health officials are worried. A new variant first discovered in India has now been found in the U S as vaccination rates seem to be slowing KPBS health reporter. Matt Hoffman is here with more Matt. Welcome. Hey Jay. So do we know how significant the decrease in demand for vaccinations is? I mean, are we able to administer the shots we are allotted here in the County?

Speaker 2: 00:37 Yeah. So officials say that the demand obviously is dropping, you know, for the first time here. Uh, but they say that it's not dropping significantly. Actually, uh, around two weeks ago, we saw a big spike in the amount of vaccines that were delivered here. Uh, we were getting around 200,000 a week and then that jumped to 300,000 last week. We were told that that's not increasing. So we're still at around 300,000 doses delivered per week. So maybe that initial allotment of that extra a hundred thousand made some leftovers. So they're starting to see some Slack in the appointments, which may have led to them opening up walk-ups at some of those vaccination sites. So how

Speaker 1: 01:08 Is this decrease in demand being addressed?

Speaker 2: 01:11 Yeah, it's like a, the health officials have to sort of change their tactics as they listen to the ebb and flow of the public here, you know, as they start to see this decrease in demand, they say that they want to make it easier for people to get vaccinated. Uh, here's County, public health officer, Dr. Wilma Wooten,

Speaker 3: 01:26 Things change. Things are not going to stay constant. So as, uh, the temperament of the general public changes, our strategies must change. And so that's what we're doing and that's what we will continue to do.

Speaker 2: 01:39 Um, and, and some of the strategies that health officials have outlined is extending hours at some of the sites to 8:00 PM. For some of those people that may not be able to get there when they close a little bit earlier, I'm also looking at the possibility of adding a 24 hour location,

Speaker 1: 01:51 The Wootens point of making the process easier. Some vaccination clinics in the County are no longer requiring appointments. How's that working?

Speaker 2: 01:59 Yeah. It's about two dozen sites throughout the County, including some of those mobile sites and, you know, County officials last week, describing it as definitely a good thing, you know? Um, it's another way for them to try to make it easier for people to get appointments. You know, they really feel like that a lot of people were sort of frustrated at, at the onset, even when we go back to about two, three weeks ago, when appointments opened up for everyone aged 16 and older, um, there was sort of a sense of frustration of people not being able to find appointments right away. Um, and so they're hoping to bring some of those people back. Um, they are starting a targeted campaign as well for people aged 16 to 34, which they describe as young people where they feel like that there's not necessarily where they don't want to be vaccinated, but it's just not easy for them to get vaccinated.

Speaker 1: 02:39 We've heard of some people who get Pfizer or Madrona getting their first shot, but not their second. Um, what have public health officials said about that?

Speaker 2: 02:47 Yeah. Uh, 5 million, uh, people, uh, nationwide the CDC says have missed their second doses, which is a small fraction of the total number of doses delivered. Uh, in San Diego. I did ask public health officials that last week, um, said that they didn't have the number, but they don't believe that it's, um, anything, you know, out of control or anything crazy. Um, now we'd love to find what that is. Um, and so they said that they're working to try to get us the data and we know Jade for those people who don't get that second dose, the, the overall effectiveness of the vaccine goes down

Speaker 1: 03:15 And Wooten has also said, the County is now targeting younger people for vaccines. Where are they in that process? And what's the goal.

Speaker 2: 03:23 Yeah. So I mentioned earlier that they are doing a targeted campaign for those ages 16 to 34 as the vaccination rates for that group is a little bit lower. Um, and we know overall, you know, when you look at the, some of the counties breakdown is the age 16 to 19 group, that's the lowest percentage vaccinated that, that, that we are seeing there. And then Dr. Wooten pointed out, you know, in the coming months, you know, maybe just about a month away, uh, we could start seeing some, uh, approvals for vaccinations for even younger people. We're talking about aside from 16 and 17 year olds, which need parental permission to get vaccinated. So not only the teen wants to get vaccinated, but the parent, um, we've seen some of these events at school sites where they're signing permission slips, uh, aside from those apparent, we need to go with them. But Dr. Wooten also hinting at, um, those vaccinations coming for students aged 12 to 15 at once that happens, you know, we have this goal of 75% of the population vaccinated. It comes summer, come July, but she says that that bar is going to change. That goal is going to change once the vaccinations are opened up for people aged 12 to 15

Speaker 1: 04:19 Schools, including SDSU are requiring vaccinations, once emergency authorization for the vaccine is made official. Do you expect other schools to follow CSU as lead?

Speaker 2: 04:29 You know, I, I think it's going to depend on when that emergency authorization youth use goes away, you know, is that coming in a month? Is that coming in a couple of weeks? I think that's gonna, uh, affect the whole decision. And then also too, you're going to have to look at, you know, I'm sure that there's, you know, the state can decide, Hey, do we want to make this for, you know, all, all school districts statewide. And then it may be up to individual school districts where they say, you know, do we want to require all of our students to get vaccinated? Um, it's something that I think is going to be coming up at a lot of board meetings, uh, in the next few weeks

Speaker 1: 04:57 Last week, you reported that the vaccination numbers didn't include members of the military and their families. Why is that? And is there an effort to include them?

Speaker 2: 05:05 It's basically just kind of separate systems, you know, the federal government, they have their system of tracking. And when I say the federal government, I mean, you know, department of defense, they have their system of veteran's affairs. They have their system, you know, the States and the counties, they have their individual reporting systems. Um, and so the effort to include them, uh, it was spearheaded by a County board chair, Nathan Fletcher, um, also Congressman Scott Peters, um, and they were able to get that data. And basically, um, we know that from the act of service members, about 60% of those stationed in San Diego have received at least one dose. Um, and of those active service military members, about 50% are fully vaccinated. And we know, uh, J that there's a lot of DOD dependents, other DOD retirees that are not active duty military, uh, there's about 328,000 of them, uh, here in San Diego. And, uh, we know of that group, about 30% of them are harshly vaccinated. And that 30 number may seem a little bit low, but federal officials basically say like, if I'm a dependent of an active duty service member, and if I go get a shot, like at a super super station, I would have to self-report that. So they think that numbers are a lot higher because people are getting vaccinated

Speaker 1: 06:11 And there are plans for those numbers to soon be included in the counties overall number

Speaker 2: 06:16 That's correct. Right. And we know that the VA has delivered around 70,000 of these vaccinations. Um, and those numbers are already included. And the, uh, we saw a couple of percentage point increase in our goal. Uh, and then we know that yes, those DOD numbers have yet to be included, but we know that they should be in the coming weeks. And also, uh, Jade what's also important too, is that, um, County officials also Scott Peter's office is telling us that the DOD has committed on a bi-weekly basis to be updating health officials on those numbers, which are critical. You know, it's so many such a large military population here, uh, to actually, you know, being able to gauge the waters accurately in terms of the vaccination program.

Speaker 1: 06:52 I've been speaking with KPBS health reporter, Matt Hoffman, Matt, thanks so much for joining us.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.