FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KGPE) – June 15 is the date Gov. Gavin Newsom says the state will reopen. Ahead of that day, Fresno County health officials and community leaders are looking to find better ways to reach people with the COVID-19 vaccine as demand for it declines.
“It’s going to require creativity and innovation – both up to June 15 and beyond June 15 – to really make this work and meet people where they are,” Fresno County Interim Health Officer Dr. Rais Vohra said.
“Meeting people where they’re at” is something health officials have repeated over the last couple of weeks.
“It really is going to be knocking on doors. Meeting people at the grocery store when they’re coming out. Going to mobile home parks, going to apartment complexes, doing a pre-education prior to the vaccine clinic on-site, being at a sporting event, ” said Joe Prado, who has been leading the vaccine distribution effort in Fresno County.
At the same time, the county is also facing another challenge: administering doses before they go to waste.
“There is going to be a challenge with some of the Johnson & Johnson doses that do have an expiration date. So we’re just trying to plan ahead to be able to get Johnson & Johnson into the right lane to be able to utilize those doses,” Prado said.
Shantay Davies-Balch with the African American Coalition said they’ve administered around 8,000 doses thus far at the Gaston Middle School vaccination site. She says about 38% of those who have been vaccinated at the site have been African Americans.
But she said more needs to be done to reach those who are younger than 35.
According to the state, around 52% of those 16 and older in the county have been vaccinated with at least one dose.
The County Department of Public Health requested just 6,000 doses for next week given the decreased demand.
As the county aims to increase its vaccination numbers, Vohra said they are now aware of a total of at least 50 cases of variants in the county. He said about 25 are the UK variant, about 20 are the California variant and about 5 are either the South Africa variant or Brazil variant.
But Vohra said the number of cases of variants is likely much higher in the county.
“The faster we get our people vaccinated, the more protected we’ll be against these variants, Vohra said. “If we want COVID to go away, and I think we can all agree that we do, we’ve all got to get our vaccine. It’s that simple.”
In addition to being able to register for the vaccine via MyTurn, Fresno County has also set up a phone line for people to register and make an appointment for the vaccine: (888) 559- 2683. It is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.