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Bear Republic Brewing Co. in Rohnert Park first stop in Sonoma County’s bid to vaccinate more young people

The scores of millenials and Gen Zers at Rohnert Park’s Bear Republic Brewing Co. Thursday afternoon might have enjoyed a crafted ale or a delicious burger during their visit.

But they were really there for the COVID-19 vaccines.

Inoculations were the order of the day at the brewpub as about 30 nurses and volunteers with the Sonoma County Medical Association administered Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson vaccines to people ages 12 and older.

The effort, which included those with appointments as well as those who just walked in, was part of a push to increase the amount of vaccinations among young adults.

Brody Anderson, right, receives a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine from Dr. David Smith, while registered nurse Bianca Gagliano looks over paperwork, during a Sonoma County Medical Association vaccination clinic at Bear Republic Brewing Company in Rohnert Park on Thursday, May 27, 2021.  (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)
Brody Anderson, right, receives a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine from Dr. David Smith, while registered nurse Bianca Gagliano looks over paperwork, during a Sonoma County Medical Association vaccination clinic at Bear Republic Brewing Company in Rohnert Park on Thursday, May 27, 2021. (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

State health experts have set a high goal for this particular demographic.

The California Department of Public Health is aiming for a 70% vaccination rate in order to fully reopen schools this fall.

In Sonoma County, nearly 30% of those ages 12 to 15 have received their first shot in the two weeks since they became eligible.

Among the handful of young kids who didn’t just come for the food was 15-year-old Brody Anderson.

There with his family, the teen volunteered to be the first of the four of them to get a shot.

“I thought, ’Lets get it over with!’” he said, as he looked through Bear Republic’s menu, while he waited the required 15 minutes following his vaccination.

“I was hesitant because I’m not a fan of shots, but I know that I’ll be safer now,” he added. “I don’t want to die.”

Additional incentives offered to those who received a shot, included a 10% discount coupon for food and drinks and a free Cold Stone Creamery ice cream voucher.

Sydney Frank, 25, who said she was initially leery about receiving the vaccine, reconsidered after she decided she wants to travel.

She said she’s going to Mexico, Croatia, and France this year and wanted to avoid the many COVID-19 tests she would need if she didn’t get vaccinated.

“This is the first vaccine for our generation that doesn’t have historical data,” Frank said. “People are worried that it may be harmful.”

In Sonoma County, according to health data, 58% of the eligible population is fully vaccinated, 12% is partially vaccinated, while 30% has yet to be vaccinated.

However, as positive-COVID-19 rates have decreased among all age groups, there is a slight increase in positive diagnoses among those aged 18 to 24.

Positivity rates for all age groups are less than 1%, according to Dr. Urmila Shende, the county's vaccine chief. But the slight increase among 18 to 24-year-olds is concerning, she said.

Shende suspects the uptick is partially due to informal gatherings or their reduced rate of vaccination, as compared to older demographics.

Age-based eligibility began with people 75 or older, then moved to people ages 50 to 64. On April 15, those between the ages of 16 and 59 became eligible for the vaccine.

“We’re trying to think outside the box,” said Wendy Young, executive director of Sonoma County Medical Association. “We’re hitting all the hang out spots ... we’re coming to the young people in our community.”

Young said the association plans on setting up at various places in the county where younger crowds normally gather.

The association’s next stop is Wicked Slush in Healdsburg on June 2, though a specific time has not been determined yet, according to Young.

“We want to reward people for having each others’ backs in the community,” Tami Norgrove, co-owner of Bear Republic in Rohnert Park, said during Thursday’s event. “That’s what this is all about, encouraging and motivating our community to keep each other safe.”

You can reach Staff Writer Mya Constantino at mya.constantino@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5220. On Twitter @searchingformya.

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