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Couch's Corner: Kern County sees expanded vaccine distribution

Recently, the governor visited our District 4 community of Arvin to announce that the state is partnering with OptumServe, Kern County and other counties to open up to 11 vaccination sites to serve some of the hardest-hit or most at-risk communities in the Central Valley, in addition to other steps to bolster vaccination efforts in the region. In addition to Arvin, the District 4 community of Wasco was also identified as one of the 11 new vaccination sites. I am pleased that we are able to bring this most important and timely service to our District 4 communities.

In addition, the state is increasing vaccine allocations to the Central Valley by 58 percent, based on recent changes in our state’s allocation methodology that better reflect the region’s workforce. California’s vaccine allocation formula began factoring in the employment sectors in Phase 1b, Tier 1 (education, emergency services and food and agriculture). The new formula weights age 65-plus at 70 percent and employment sectors at 30 percent, which increases allocations to the Central Valley due to its heavy concentration of food and agricultural workers. The two District 4 state vaccination sites are located at 414 4th Avenue in Arvin and 1202 Poplar Avenue in Wasco. Both sites made an immediate impact offering vaccinations to all eligible Phase 1a and Phase 1b, Tier 1 groups. Each location will be open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. To make your appointment, please visit MyTurn.ca.gov or call 833-422- 4255. MyTurn is the State’s online platform to schedule COVID-19 vaccine appointments.

In late February, the state began providing an additional 34,000 doses on a one-time basis to vaccinate food and agricultural workers through the deployment of OptumServe mobile teams. These doses are in addition to existing county allocations. More doses are coming in as we speak.

We learned from the outset of our mitigation efforts that the pandemic has not affected communities equally. On March 4, the state announced it will reserve 40 percent of its COVID-19 vaccine doses for low-income communities spread out across 400 of the state’s Zip Codes, or the lower quartile of the state’s Healthy Places Index. The HPI reflects community characteristics using data related to the economy, education, healthcare access, housing, neighborhoods, clean environment, transportation and social environment.

This new allocation formula will help Kern Public Health and our local health providers administer vaccines to those highly impacted from the virus. The Blueprint for a Safer Economy is the four-tier, color coded classification system that regulates how municipalities and counties can safely operate during the pandemic. The blueprint will be updated again when 4 million doses have been administered in the vaccine equity quartile. Once this goal is met the CDPH will update the classification system to allow for more case rates in each tier and advance the progress of reopening due to widespread inoculation throughout California.

Equally important to these recent developments is the partnership between Adventist Health and Chevron to form a mobile vaccination unit that travels to rural and remote areas in Kern County. The mobile unit made its debut in another District 4 community in McFarland on March 2. Thank you to Chevron and Adventist Health for taking a proactive approach to vaccinating more than 200 community members in District 4 who previously experienced hurdles accessing the vaccine due to lack of transportation or other concerns. Expect similar developments throughout District 4 in the near future as well.

As you can see, special attention is being given to our District 4 communities and I will continue to make sure we get the needed assistance from the state and our County Health Department. With the upcoming roll out of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, FDA approval of additional therapeutics, and a targeted approach to increase the allocation of vaccines to the Central Valley, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Feel free to contact the District 4 office at 661-868-3680 or at district4@kerncounty.com if you have any ideas, suggestions or questions regarding this or any County matter.

David Couch represents Kern County’s 4th District.