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Frustration grows as vaccine supply not meeting demand for Tahoe residents

Cheyanne Neuffer
cneuffer@tahoedailytribune.com

 

El Dorado County residents and health officials alike are frustrated with the vaccination process.

The county has no available vaccines to distribute and is not taking appointment reservations.

“We simply don’t get the supply to meet the demand,” said Carla Hass, county communications director, on Tuesday during a supervisors meeting. “The vaccine supply just isn’t there.”



Hass said that she understands residents are frustrated, but that will most likely continue until supply meets demand.

El Dorado County receives .35% of the state’s vaccine allotment and the county makes up about .4% of the state’s population. Hass says these numbers are up to par in comparison with the county and state populations. These numbers point to country-wide lack in supply of the vaccine.



El Dorado has a significantly larger senior population in comparison to other counties around the state. The county’s population is about 192,000 and 41,000 are seniors 65 years of age and above. Vaccines have been administered to 36% of the county’s seniors and 80% of appointments scheduled are seniors.

Due to the need of vaccinating the most vulnerable, health officials have asked for an increase in the county’s weekly allotment to 20,000 doses, about 15,000 above its original request, but that request has yet to be granted, or even acknowledged. The board of supervisors showed frustration during Tuesday’s meeting that the state doesn’t even respond to questions or requests.

On average, the county is receiving 2,800 doses per week.

As of Jan.1, there has been a total allocation of 7,800 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech and 8,900 doses of the Moderna vaccine. More vaccines are expected this week, including 1,400 doses of Moderna and 975 of the Pfizer brand, however these doses have already been spoken for according to Hass. She said the county is also earmarking planned second doses for those who received the first vaccine.

County health clinics, including Safeway locations, are currently full and waiting for additional vaccine allocation from the state.

There are no walk-ins allowed, appointments must be made for both locations. Hass said that other than cancellations, that the middle of February looks to be about the time when reservations may become available again.

The county is in Tier 1 of Phase 1B which allows vaccinations for the education sector, childcare services, emergency services, along with food and agricultural workers.

Those already eligible to receive the vaccine are seniors ages 65 and older (regardless of employment status) along with workers at speciality clinics, laboratory workers, dental and oral health clinics, pharmacy staff and care providers. Those in Phase 1A tiers 1-3 are still eligible for the vaccine.

While the vaccines have been limited, school district staff in both California and Nevada are beginning to receive vaccinations.

As of Tuesday, approximately 55% of the Lake Tahoe Unified School District staff have received their first doses and 20% of staff are awaiting their first dose appointment.

Before the supply ran out, 16% were unable to schedule a first dose. About 17% of the staff have their second dose scheduled and 25% of those that received a first dose were unable to schedule an appointment for the second.

The district says that 6% do not want the vaccine.

People who meet the criteria for current tiers through their employment will be contacted by their employer.

For seniors, once more vaccines are received, those who are eligible can sign up by visiting either:

Safeway in South Lake Tahoe (1020 Johnson Ln) or the Public Health Clinic in South Lake Tahoe (1360 Johnson Blvd, No. 103) :

Sign up here for notification of when your phase/tier is eligible.

For those who need more help to get vaccinated, later this week the county will be advertising a phone number for seniors needing guidance navigating the process to get vaccinated.

The county is also offering seniors 65 or older, with or without online capability, one on one service to help navigate the website at county libraries.

WASHOE COUNTY

On the North Shore, vaccine supply continues to be a common theme and hurdle at ensuring the community is vaccinated.

“We desperately need more of the vaccine,” said Scott Oxarart, Washoe County public information officer. “We have the ability to scale up our operations.”

Oxarart says that the county needs more vaccines to administer and they have been looking to the state and federal government for more.

Washoe County has been receiving approximately 6,000 vaccines on average each week. Officials are already planning for next week’s allotment.

However, similarly to El Dorado County, those vaccines have been spoken for.

As of Sunday, the county had administered 85% of its allotment. In two days, county officials vaccinated 1,800 seniors but are working to get more so that they can open scheduling days.

The county has partnered with other facilities to administer vaccines to seniors including Renown and St. Mary’s regional medical centers, Smith’s, Walgreens, Community Health Alliance and the VA Hospital.

Frontline and the essential workforce along with seniors 70 or older, educators and childcare workers are eligible for the vaccine.

The county has received a total of 25,420 and as of Sunday, 16,211 doses have been administered, with 2,530 of residents receiving their second dose.

On Monday, the county received 6,510 additional doses, which is 25% less than what the county received last week. Out of the doses received, 4,170 will be used for the second round and 2,340 will be administered as the first dose.

Last week, the school district also began vaccinating staff.

Seniors who are 70 years or older have options once scheduling opens.

The county has a wait list of seniors 70 years and older, sign up here for the waiting list.

Renown announced select seniors can sign up for the opportunity to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. They are currently full, but officials recommend checking back frequently here.

Smith’s and Walgreens are vaccinating those 70 and older living in the county. Visit or to schedule an online appointment.

Community Health Alliance is administering vaccines and are currently full but check back here for availability.

VA Hospital is offering vaccines to veterans age 75 and above. Call 775-786-7200 or sign up here.

Those who are ages 65-70 are not currently eligible, but can sign up on the waiting list.

To see if you are eligible for the vaccine, visit here.

QUAD-COUNTY REGION

For residents in the Quad-County region, vaccinations are available for frontline healthcare workers, first responders, frontline workers essential to the COVID-19 response along with education, childcare staff, Nevada System of Higher Education faculty and anyone 70 years old or older.

Similar to El Dorado County, people who meet the criteria for tiers through their employment will be contacted by their employer regarding how to sign up and where to receive their vaccination.

The county recommends those looking to get vaccinated to check the link for appointment openings.

For those who need help scheduling a vaccine appointment, call Carson City Senior Center at 775-883-0703 or Douglas County Senior Center at 775-782-5500, Ext. 3.

Local pharmacies will also be offering the vaccine to Quad-County residents who are 70 and older:

Smith’s Food and Drug and Walgreens are offering the vaccine to Quad-County residents who are 70 and older.

Correction: This article originally stated incorrect percentages of El Dorado County’s population compared to the rest of the state’s population and the percentage of vaccines allocated to the county.


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