Spring weather has arrived, people are getting vaccinated and it seems that people’s thoughts have turned to the post-pandemic — that era when, perhaps, the county achieves “herd immunity,” whatever you take that phrase to mean.

In today’s media availability with the county’s Public Health division, nurse practitioner Lindsey Mendez — a member of the county’s vaccine task force — tackles several questions about this, plus a couple about the more stable Johnson & Johnson vaccine and whether the American Rescue Plan will help the county ramp up shots going into arms.

Video above, rough transcript below.


From the North Coast News: How much vaccine hesitancy have you observed thus far in administering the COVID-19 vaccine in Humboldt County, and are you concerned about the impact it could have locally on reaching herd immunity?

Hi Humboldt County and hi North Coast News. To answer this question right now, we do not have the amount of data that we would need to see about vaccine hesitancy in our own community. Obviously vaccine hesitancy can occur in any part of the world and we would encourage people to thoroughly research the vaccine and understand that it is a safe and effective vaccine and that we have three vaccines that are safe and effective. And if at any time you are given the opportunity to have a vaccine, please vaccinate yourself and be protected from COVID-19.

From the North Coast News: A week ago, you said the county would be utilizing the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine for rural populations, those who have difficulty with travel and individuals experiencing homelessness. How has public health been working to do this?

I am elated to tell you that public health has been partnering with numerous community partners in this area so that we can vaccinate persons who are experiencing any kind of hardship in which a second dose would be more difficult for them to get to be vaccinated. With that said we are partnering with people with the shelters, congregate living situations, persons experiencing homelessness, rural areas that are beyond the incorporated borders of the 101 and we are going to be continuing to do this in the coming weeks as we get Janssen and other vaccines in.

From the North Coast News: The American Rescue Plan, signed into law last week by President Biden, includes billions of dollars for local health departments to utilize for vaccine distribution. Do you know how much of this Humboldt has been allocated, and how the county plans to use it? How much has funding been an issue?

Well first I’ll start with I can’t answer all questions about financial concerns at this time as I’m part of a different part of the vaccine task force, but what I can say is that vaccine supply is always a concern. What we are looking forward to is if we could get more allocations of vaccine, then we could have more vaccines in our county and we’ll be able to end the pandemic sooner. So we are currently in the process of looking at planning for this.

From the Redheaded Blackbelt: If Humboldt County is able to reach a level of herd immunity, how would that achievement affect the level of active virus circulating in the community?

When we are looking at herd immunity and what the goal is, obviously herd immunity is something that you want so that you can decrease any virus in your community using things like vaccine. So as we move forward, we’re hoping that as we get more shots into arms of those who are most vulnerable and at the highest risk, you’re going to exponentially decrease the amount of virus that’s being spread around the community.

From the Redheaded Blackbelt: In regard to Humboldt County reaching a level of herd immunity that actually prevents circulation of the disease by community spread, what is a realistic timeframe for that goal to be met, and how is it possible to move that goalpost forward?

So when we’re looking at achieving herd immunity in our community, we need to think about how much vaccine supply we are getting into our community at that time and then all other resources for getting shots into arms to expedite that process. Right now we don’t have a very good prediction of when herd immunity will occur in our community because we do not know the exact amount of vaccine supply we will be receiving in the future. What we do know is that just like we’ve been doing in the past where we have been protecting our community members, we’ve been masking, we’ve been social distancing, we’ve been washing our hands so that we can have an effort for our neighbors and for those most vulnerable. That’s what we’re going to be doing with the vaccine at this time. We are going to continue to care in that way and prioritize those who can help us achieve herd immunity and continue to put shots in arms and empty our freezers every week like we’ve been doing since we got vaccine.