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CSUB, BC will be COVID-19 vaccination sites for Kern County

As Kern County begins to receive more allotments of the COVID-19 vaccine, residents will be able to get vaccinated at Cal State Bakersfield and Bakersfield College.

On Friday, CSUB announced the university would be a mass vaccination site for the west side of town, with the site scheduled to open at the end of March.

“We plan to host a large vaccination site run by a consortium of Kaiser Permanente, Adventist Health Bakersfield and Dignity Health Hospitals,” said CSUB spokeswoman Jennifer Self.

More details are expected to be released as plans develop. But it’s not the first time the systems have paired up: Kaiser Permanente, Adventist Health, Dignity Health and the Cal State system worked together to launch another mass vaccination hub at Cal Poly Pomona with the capacity to administer 10,000 doses a day.

Eleven CSU campuses across the state are currently operating as community COVID-19 vaccine distribution sites, with more expected to come online in the near future, according to Toni Molle, spokeswoman for the Office of the Chancellor for California State University.

“Whether in partnership with local public health agencies, third-party health vendors or the federal government, the CSU is committed to protecting the health and well-being of our students, employees and the communities where our 23 universities are located,” Molle wrote in an email.

Bakersfield College has also received approval to administer vaccines. Norma Rojas-Mora, spokeswoman for Bakersfield College, said that it is only because Kern County is receiving so few allotments that it currently isn’t.

BC is in the same boat as other community colleges, according to Paul Feist, vice chancellor for communications for the California Community College’s Chancellor’s Office. About 15 to 20 community colleges in the state are serving as vaccination sites but 44 have volunteered.

EXPANDED IN-PERSON OFFERINGS

Kern County began offering vaccinations to those who work in education when eligibility was expanded in California on Feb. 22. Much of the attention has been on K-12 educators looking for protection against the virus, especially those in elementary schools who have already returned to classrooms or are expected to return this spring. But those who work in higher education are also eligible and have been steadily receiving their vaccines, too.

Last week, Bakersfield College’s COVID task force received a call from Adventist Health that they had extra doses of the COVID-19 vaccine that needed to get into arms quickly: Were there any takers? The first 150 staff and faculty to respond were able to receive their first doses of the vaccine, said Rojas-Mora.

That’s good news for upcoming summer and certainly fall sessions for community colleges around the state and in Kern County.

“Expanded in-person instruction are expected to resume summer and fall but those decisions are made at the college level,” said Feist.

Right now Bakersfield College operates mostly in a virtual format, but it does hold limited in-person instruction for course work that’s impossible to do virtually in radiologic technology, automotive technology, nursing and those training to be emergency medical technicians or other first responders.

But the college is currently assessing how it might be able to open up even more in-person classes as soon as this summer, according to Nicky Damania, the director of student life who serves on Bakersfield College’s COVID task force.

“We’re always looking for opportunities to expand access to in-person instruction, especially in summer — and especially in fall,” Damania said.

Currently the college is looking into where it’s feasible to hold classes based on factors like classroom capacity, Damania said. A lot of the plans to create a safe learning environment are heavily dependent on guidance from state agencies as well, he added.

“Everything is still up in the air,” he said.

Nick Strobel, the professor of astronomy and planetarium director at BC, received his first dose of the vaccine. He looks forward to being back in the planetarium, which has been closed since March 2020, in the fall.

He said professors are trying to plan how they might offer in-person courses when the time comes. Some might offer certain sections solely in-person and others just virtually. But some are discussing ways to stream courses to students virtually while teaching in-person students.

“We’re still figuring out what that will look like,” he said.

In the meantime, the college is urging everyone, including students, to get the COVID-19 vaccine when they can to get the community closer to herd immunity.

Rojas-Mora said that the college has partnered with Adventist Health, Centric Health, Dignity Health and other pharmacies to help get its staff and faculty vaccinated. That’s how it was able to get a phone call when Adventist Health had additional doses. Because of that call, they now have a waitlist and know who is interested in getting a vaccination, whether through a clinic for the college or other one-off events like what happened with Adventist.

“We’re looking for every avenue to make sure there’s access,” said Rojas-Mora.