Sonoma County health clinics getting $23 million from feds to bolster COVID-19 vaccination efforts
Sonoma County community health clinics are poised to receive nearly $23 million and thousands more weekly doses of coronavirus vaccines from the federal government to bolster vaccination efforts in disadvantaged neighborhoods.
Santa Rosa Community Health, the county’s largest nonprofit network of health centers, has been awarded almost $8.5 million to help pay for its pandemic response efforts, the largest amount among the six federally qualified area clinics getting the financial boost.
Others slated to receive millions of dollars each are health centers in Petaluma, Healdsburg, Cloverdale, Guerneville and Sonoma. The $23 million set aside for Sonoma County is part of $993 million going to California health centers and $6 billion to clinics nationwide.
Dr. Sundari Mase, the county’s health officer, said the federal dollars should help the county reach its goal of more equitable vaccine distribution among racial and ethnic groups across the county.
“Health centers have really been the equity leaders in vaccinations,” Mase said.
County public health COVID-19 vaccination data through Wednesday indicates a wide racial gap in shots administered so far. Of the 295,693 vaccine doses that went into residents’ arms countywide, 61% of the recipients were white and only 19% of them were Latinos.
The two-year grants from the federal Health Resources & Services Administration will help Santa Rosa Community Health support a vaccination clinic soon to open at Roseland library in southwest Santa Rosa, a diverse area that’s home to many Latinos. The money also will pay for education outreach to increase vaccination rates in underserved neighborhoods.
“This is an incredible investment in health equity for our community,” said Naomi Fuchs, CEO of Santa Rosa Community Health. “We are excited to be able to expand services and programs to support the health and well-being of our patients.”
Santa Rosa Community Health is the first in the county to begin receiving vaccine doses directly from the federal government.
Last week, the health center got 1,350 doses of vaccine and this week another 1,775 doses from a partnership between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. health services administration. Those shipments came in addition to the roughly 1,500 weekly doses the health organization has been receiving from the county through the state.
Annemarie Brown, a spokeswoman for Santa Rosa Community Health, said the vaccines coming from federal sources “supplement not supplant” its current vaccine supply and are ”designated to target racial and ethnic equity access and disparities.”
Pedro Toledo, chief financial officer for Petaluma Health Center, said the $6.3 million grant will help double capacity at vaccination clinics the center is running at Santa Rosa Junior College’s Petaluma campus and in Point Reyes Station.
The money also will help the Petaluma center pay to staff and operate a new van. The vehicle was purchased a year ago and is set to arrive in two weeks, just in time to use it as a mobile vaccination clinic, Toledo said.
“We’ve vaccinated over 10,000 individuals over the last couple of weeks, but we certainly want to do more, and this funding allows us to do more,” he said.
Toledo said his organization soon, too, will receive vaccine doses directly from the federal government. He said Petaluma Health Center now has the supply to inoculate 2,500 people a week, but is ramping up to vaccinate about 6,000 people weekly once the extra doses start arriving from federal sources.
Joan Churchill, CEO of Alliance Medical Center in Healdsburg, said her center cares for a large number of patients who live in poverty and are minorities.
“About 70% of our patients identify as Latinos,” she said. “We want to make sure that as many minorities and uninsured people, who will have a hard time getting a vaccination ... have a chance.”
Churchill said Alliance has administered 13,262 first and second shots as of March 26, a figure that represents 5,277 fully vaccinated people and 7,985 individuals who have received at least one vaccine dose. Of those who have received at least one shot, 53% are Latino, she said.
She’s looking forward to the federal vaccine supply, which should greatly increase the number of vaccinations for Alliance. Last week, Alliance did 3,300 inoculations, but this week it is expected to do only about 1,200, due to short supply.
“With our staff, we are set up — it will kill us — but we could do 5,000 vaccinations a week,” Churchill said.
Dr. Jason Cunningham, CEO of West County Health Centers, said he hopes to use some of the $2 million the community health organization was awarded to cover vaccination costs and other pandemic expenses for which it receives no funding.
The West County health care provider, which has clinics in Sebastopol and Guerneville, has received roughly 1,200 COVID-19 doses weekly from the state to cover first and second inoculations, he said. But he said they have capacity to do 3,000 shots a week.
Cunningham said his health center will start receiving vaccine doses from federal sources later this month or in May to bolster its shipments.
In addition to enabling the local clinics to get more shots in arms, the federal grants will help them take care of medical needs people have delayed during the pandemic.
You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 707-521-5213 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @pressreno.