We have received a lot of messages around confusion on vaccination programs. There has been conflicting information between press, social media, and the reliable rumor mill. This newsletter is to cut through the noise and confusion with verified information on vaccine distribution.
There are two different opportunities for seniors 75+ to receive their COVID vaccine, including appointments available this week (February 2-8).
Also: If you are seeing this post and you have friends or relatives who are 75+, please consider calling them and suggesting they schedule an appointment, or even offering to assist them in scheduling an appointment if they are struggling with how to sign up. The way we will get through this pandemic is by helping each other. Doing this small kindness for a friend will help the system work better and help ensure that those who might have limited access to technology get their shots quickly, too.
While new state and federal guidance recently expanded for individuals over 65 to now receive the COVID-19 vaccine, there are limits on how much vaccine is available. Before expanding to the next phase, Sonoma County continues to prioritize vaccine distribution to those most vulnerable to COVID-19 due to high risk of exposure at work and 75+ year-old individuals.
The Department of Health has been coordinating with primary care providers on plans for expanding immunizations, and for those of you with providers, your health center will contact you about scheduling when the vaccine is available for you. When you are eligible for a vaccine, and not before that, you will be able to make an appointment through your provider or at a vaccination clinic.
The sooner we get our 75+ vaccinated, the sooner we can turn to the next round of seniors. I know there are many in their early 70s and late 60s waiting anxiously for their vaccines, and I can’t wait for it to be your turn next.
The County has also worked to increase vaccination opportunities more widely. One such vaccination site is at OptumServ Rohnert Park as part of a pilot program through the state. Signup link is HERE:https://myoptumserve.com/covid19
or by phone at: 877-218-0381.
***please note, some people are having a challenge with a direct link. If you click on the link and get a blank or incomplete page, try copying and pasting it into your browser.
Another vaccination opportunity is intended for those who live, work, or receive medical services in West County. The link for this week’s West County Health Centers vaccine clinics in Sebastopol and Guernevilleis here
.Our County Health Services Department has also been coordinating with Redwood Coast Medical Services to ensure access for coastal communities farther north.
Below is clarifying information from the County on the confusion and challenges last week with the Vaccination Program:
Sonoma County is committed to prioritizing those 75 and above in the distribution of vaccines in our community for the following reasons:
a.Roughly 64 percent of the 260 deaths that have occurred in Sonoma County since the pandemic began have been those age 75 and above. In addition, January has been the deadliest month of the pandemic so far with 103 deaths. Those in this age group need vaccinations as quickly as possible.
b.Given that our region is known as a retirement destination, Sonoma County is home to roughly 102,000 residents who are 65 and over, representing about 25 percent of our total adult population. The County does not have enough vaccinations to address this demand. This is why the county is focusing on those 75 and above, which represents about 36,000 residents.
c.This group represents those most vulnerable, most at risk, and, in general, least tech-savvy and, thus, least able to schedule vaccinations online without assistance.
This commitment to those 75 and above is shared by our health care partners including Kaiser, Sutter, St. Joseph, and health care clinics who also are prioritizing this age group in their vaccinations.
●Concerning the OptumServe site at Rohnert Park Community Center:
a.Since Monday, Jan. 25 when the opening of this OptumServe clinic was first announced, it was emphasized that this vaccination clinic was designated for those 75 and above. This was made clear in the County’spress release
, press briefings, website and social media posts. It also was made clear inThe Press Democrat story
on the opening of the clinic.
b.We also made this clear to OptumServe as it set up this scheduling site for us and the three other counties involved in this pilot project - Contra Costa County, San Bernardino County, Riverside County and Sonoma County. Both Contra Costa and Sonoma counties emphasized that they wanted appointments reserved for those 75 and above. This was made clear on Tuesday, Jan. 26 when we approved the draft language for the site .
c.Given our concern about OptumServe's ability to have these controls in place - as they were still fine-tuning the scheduling website - therefore these appointments were “by invitation only.” So our Adult and Aging division, working with our Health Equity Manager, identified groups to reach out to for the initial appointments. Some of the groups include: West County Community Health Center, Latino Service Providers, Los Cien, Disability Services and Legal Center (The Sonoma County Independent Living Center), Sonoma County In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS), Sonoma County Adult Protective Services, Sonoma County Case Management, Corazon Healdsburg, La Luz, CURA, Undocufund. Petaluma Family Resources, Santa Rosa Community Health, Sonoma Valley Health, Alliance Medical Center, etc.
d.In many cases, these organizations signed up people individually over the phone.In other cases, they gave them the link but asked them not to share the link with others. This worked for about the first day and a half - until people started to share the link with friends - and then someone posted it on social media on Wednesday.
e.At that point, the appointments were snapped up quickly, filling up into early March. Given the lack of controls on the OptumServe scheduling site, 85 percent of those who made these reservations were under 75. This was equal to about 9,000 reservations.
f.As a result, the difficult decision was made on Friday to cancel all appointments made by those who did not fit the requirements of being 75 and older. The cancellations were announced at a news briefing on Friday and were included in media coverage on Friday and Saturday. Another story is expected in the Press Democrat on Monday. The official cancellation notices are expected to go out on Monday.
g.In many cases, those making appointments also were not ensuring the necessary 21-day gap between first and second doses. As a result all appointments for second appointments are being rescheduled.
●What about second shots?No one who has already received a first shot will be denied a second regardless of age. However, some people are having their second shots rescheduled because they did not book their second appointment out far enough. Some booked a second shot just one week after the first. For the Pfizer vaccine, you need to wait 21 days.
●Why was canceling appointments necessary?We understand that this is a confusing and disappointing situation for many. The OptumServe site should have blocked these appointments from the beginning. We had no choice but to double-down on our commitment to those 75 and older, and start canceling appointments. If we didn't do something right away, those 75 years and older might not have a chance for a first and second dose of the vaccine until March or April.
●How long until those 65 and older can get appointments?Looking at the numbers, we expect that we will be able to open the OptumServe scheduler to those over 65 in about two to three weeks. But we have to give our older residents a chance first and find a way to help them if we can.
●Howwill residents be notified of cancellations?Below are the messages that OpumServe will be sending:
Message for those who are having their appointments canceled:
●We are sorry to say that your appointment for a COVID-19 vaccination at the OptumServe site at Rohnert Park Community Center was canceled because you do not meet the eligibility standard for this site.At this time, the Rohnert Park vaccination clinic, as well as sites throughout Sonoma County, is dedicated to those 75 years old and older.Identifications are being checked at the clinic site. As this population is completed, and as more vaccine is made available by the State, we will modify the eligibility for this center.Please monitorsocoemergency.org/vaccine
, follow local media and track Sonoma County on Facebook and other social media for updates on when these age-eligibility requirements will change.
Message for those who are have second appointments rescheduled:
●Your appointment for a second vaccination at the OptumServe COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Rohnert Park Community Center has been rescheduled. We regret this inconvenience. Many appointments for second doses were scheduled without complying with the requisite 21-day gap between doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. As a result, all second appointments are being rescheduled.No action is required on your part. You will be appointed a new date and time for your second vaccination in the coming days. If you have a conflict concerning the new time that you are assigned, please call (888) 713-6111.
Concerning the Sonoma County Office of Education vaccination site:
The Sonoma County Office of Education had plans to begin a vaccination program on Monday with shots for about 150 school staff ages 65 and older. But because of the County’s commitment to vaccinating those over the age of 75, this clinic had to be postponed. Superintendent Steve Herrington was notified over the weekend that the County believes SCOE can launch its vaccination site in two weeks.
Questions about appointments for Oakmont residents through Safeway
A similar scheduling problem occurred at Oakmont where two vaccination clinics were being set up through Safeway pharmacy. The clinics are intended for anyone 65 and older. As a result, 900 of the appointments were taken up by those 65 and older in a matter of two hours. These too are being rescheduled.