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Rohnert Park clinic opens, adding to Sonoma County’s vaccine distribution

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About 150 Sonoma County residents 75 and older received first doses of vaccine at Rohnert Park Community Center on Wednesday, another step in the long march toward immunizing the county against the novel coronavirus.

That brings to six the number of vaccination clinics managed by the county. The sites, along with inoculations given at private hospitals and health clinics, has allowed about 1,500 doses of vaccine a day to go into the arms of Sonoma County residents and medical workers in the past week.

In addition, CVS and Walgreens are handling the large majority of vaccinations of residents and staff at area nursing homes and long-term care sites.

So far in a slow, steady rollout that began in December, the county has given 34,802 COVID-19 vaccine doses. That includes 6,727 of the required second vaccinations in what’s a two-part regimen for the vaccine types available now. The group of residents having gotten two shots are considered to have 95% immunity to the highly contagious virus that emerged here last March.

Additional vaccination clinics are expected soon in Petaluma, Windsor and Sonoma. Those sites will help the effort to fulfill Gov. Gavin Newsom’s directive to provide vaccinations to all Californians 65 and older. But local health officials acknowledged they have nowhere near the supply of vaccine doses to do that, a shortage that has many senior citizens anxious.

“I understand how much frustration there is out there,” said Dr. Urmila Shende, Sonoma County’s vaccine manager. “On a personal note, my parents and my in-laws are all over the age of 75, and they’re asking me how they can get in for an appointment. And I’m telling them the same thing that I’m telling everybody else: Please be patient.”

The Rohnert Park clinic began Wednesday with a “soft” launch, but those 150 Pfizer-BioNTech shots going into arms was a sight to behold for city Mayor Gerard Giudice. Starting Thursday, the clinic is expected to administer 420 inoculations a day.

The mayor was impressed with how fast things came together. The deal between the county and the health services company OptumServe to open the clinic wasn’t finalized until Saturday.

“And here we are Wednesday, up and running,” Giudice said. “I interviewed every one of the seniors who stood in line, in the rain, and they were so excited and so grateful to get their injections. It was a heartwarming experience. I teared up.”

More public vaccination sites around the county are in the works.

Ken Taseff, the logistics chief for the county’s vaccine effort, said the next one likely will be the Santa Rosa Junior College campus in Petaluma, which is equipped and waiting to receive vaccine doses. Huerta Gym in Windsor also is fully equipped, but awaits a health provider. The most recent addition to the lineup, the Veterans Hall in Sonoma, also awaits a provider.

Shende said she expects two clinics dedicated to seniors to start at the Santa Rosa Fairgrounds next week, and two others at Oakmont. The county is using portions of its vaccine allotment from the state to supply these clinics, but is not handling the vaccination administration itself.

Shende said there soon will be options for elderly residents to get shots at local Safeway and Walgreens pharmacies.

On Monday, Newsom directed all California counties to begin “immediately” allowing all residents 65 and older to get vaccinated. But that order has collided, here and elsewhere around the state, with the sobering reality of the limited vaccine supply. There isn’t nearly enough yet to dent the massive 65 and older demographic, Sonoma County officials are beginning with residents at least 75.

Most local private health providers are operating in a similar fashion.

Dr. Kendal Hamann of Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa said her hospital has distributed a little over 8,000 doses to its member patients and a “very large number” of non-Kaiser patients.

On Thursday, Kaiser expects to launch a partnership with the county to go into local senior residential care facilities and vaccinate residents not being served quickly enough by CVS or Walgreens. The two large pharmacy chains have a federal contract to do the vaccinations at those senior care sites nationwide.

Jonathan Richards, director of primary care at Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital, said the medical center is running two vaccination centers in Santa Rosa, with the ability to administer 810 doses daily between them. And Dr. Rajesh Ranadive said St. Joseph Health, which runs Santa Rosa Memorial and Petaluma Valley hospitals, was set to open an off-site vaccination clinic Tuesday, but encountered a delay related to the storm.

Ranadive said St. Joseph Health is hoping to deliver 1,000 to 1,500 vaccinations weekly, but “a lot of it also depends on the allocation and the challenges that we (health care providers) all are facing.”

Meanwhile, Wednesday evening county health officials and elected leaders held a public video conference updating the ongoing vaccine campaign. Some of the discussion involved identification and notification when residents are eligible to get their shots against COVID-19.

The county does not have a website for residents to schedule vaccination appointments. The state has one of its own, at MyTurn.ca.gov, but so far it is available only to residents in Los Angeles and San Diego counties. State officials are hoping to broaden that to all 58 counties as early as next week.

Until then, Sonoma County residents are encouraged to keep checking with their primary care doctors regarding when and where they can get their shots. Some seniors are being contacted by the county for vaccinations at the various clinics, but it is by invitation only.

Lynda Hopkins, chair of the county Board of Supervisors, pleaded Wednesday for understanding as the county attempts to ramp up inoculations, while facing a critical vaccine shortage from the state and federal governments.

“We’re trying to build that ship,” Hopkins said of expanding the number of vaccination sites. “Great. Now we need that supply coming in.”

You can reach Phil Barber at 707-521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @Skinny_Post.

Track coronavirus cases in Sonoma County, across California, the United States and around the world here.

For more stories about the coronavirus, go here.

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