COVID-19 - Dr. Jim Halverson

COVID-19 - Dr. Jim Halverson

Ask Dr. Halverson: COVID-19 vaccination — be patient, diligent, informed

web 4 17 Halverson photo

By Dr. Jim Halverson

The incredible effort to develop, manufacture, distribute and administer safe and effective vaccines to protect people from COVID-19 continues to progress.

People who want to receive the vaccine, now estimated at about 60% of the adult population in the United States (approximately 160 million), are understandably hoping to get it as soon as possible. With ongoing concerns about current case numbers, continuing significant morbidity and mortality, and emerging strains that are more contagious, many are becoming frustrated with having to wait to receive the vaccine.

The process of distribution and administration is constantly changing. The new Biden administration, and his very ambitious goal of administering 100 million vaccines in 100 days, the anticipated approval of the Johnson and Johnson and Astra-Zeneca vaccines, and the ever-expanding locations that will be able to administer the vaccines in the coming months will modify the information I am giving you in this article. Therefore, please go online before reading any further and subscribe for regular vaccine updates at www.venturacountyrecovers.org and click on the vaccine link from there.

Here are the facts as of Jan. 18.

How many doses will be available to the U.S., state and Ventura County?

The United States has purchased 400 million doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and has been guaranteed delivery of 120 million doses by March 31 and all 400 million doses by July 31. This will provide the recommended two doses for 200 million Americans. California, with nearly 12% of the U.S. population, should receive approximately 48 million doses and allocate approximately 1 million to Ventura County by the end of July.

How does allocation to our county work?

The federal government, currently through Operation Warp Speed, announces how many vaccines are available for distribution each week. California will have requested the amount it wants that week from the federal government based on the weekly requests received from all 58 counties in the state. Since vaccinations began in the middle of December, Ventura County has been requesting 10,000 doses per week. With Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recently announced goal to try to vaccinate 1 million California residents each week, our county has begun to request 20,000 doses weekly, which would be our expected allocation based on our county having 2% of the state’s population. 

Vaccines are shipped weekly to our county from national manufacturing sites and distribution centers. Our Public Health agency then distributes doses to vaccination sites throughout the county.

What is our county capacity for “getting shots into arms”?

Currently, with the recent openings of a vaccine administration center at the Ventura County Fairgrounds, a South Oxnard site, and a first-responder site, the county can give about 2,000 doses per day. In the very near future, additional sites will be added to help the county reach its announced goal of 5,000 doses per day by the end of January.

 

Can I just show up and get the vaccine if I am eligible?

No. All doses, whether received at a county site, soon-to-be participating pharmacies, or eventually at physicians’ offices that are able to participate, must be signed up for in advance. That sign-up site is at www.venturacountyrecovers.org/vaccine-information/portal/ and currently will only allow those in Phase 1A to register. The complete list of who is eligible in each phase is available at the same website.

When should I expect to be able to receive the vaccine?

Phase 1A: People eligible for Phase 1A should have all had the opportunity to receive their first vaccine dose by the end of January and many will have received their second dose by then. 

Phase 1B: Phase 1B should be able to start by early February. There are an estimated 135,000 county residents 65 and over, and thousands of essential workers in this phase. Assuming 60% acceptance, and 5,000 doses given per day countywide, it would take five to six weeks to administer first doses and begin to administer second doses to this group. 

Phase 1C: If 1B goes smoothly, this phase should be able to begin in mid to late March, when 1B recipients are receiving their second doses. This phase should also take several weeks to complete.

Phase 2: By late April, this phase should be able to begin. It would immunize all people 16 and over who have not been eligible to receive vaccines in the prior phases. Hopefully, the vast majority of those wanting to be vaccinated will have received their two doses by July.

Can I just take one shot instead of two?

Absolutely not, unless you have a severe adverse reaction to the first vaccination that stops you from getting the second. Thus far, this has happened rarely. One vaccination gives, at best, 50% to 60% protection (versus 95%  from two vaccinations) and immunity would likely last a much shorter period of time.

These guidelines are constantly being updated and vaccine distribution will continue to improve. Be patient. Your opportunity will come, hopefully sooner than my estimates in this article. Be diligent. Check the county website frequently and sign up for vaccine updates. 

Once your phase is opened, sign up for an appointment. When you receive your first dose, you will be given an appointment to receive the second dose of the same vaccine at the appropriate interval and at the same location. Ultimately, this incredible undertaking to make the vaccine available to all of us in our county, state, and nation will bring this pandemic to an end.

Stay committed, stay properly informed, stay positive, stay safe and stay well.

— Dr. Jim Halverson is a longtime Ojai physician who writes a weekly column on COVIN -19 for the Ojai Valley News.

 

Clarification: A sentence in Dr. Halverson’s Jan. 15 column: “Asymptomatic transmission of COVID-19,” should read: “In fact, many infected individuals, particularly people with more robust immune systems, may never develop symptoms, yet pass the virus on to others who are much more susceptible.”