Earlier today, Nurse Practitioner Lindsey Mendez, a member of the county’s Vaccine Task Force, took questions from local media outlets on the state of the county’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts.
Questions were due before today’s big announcement from the state that the vaccine would be made available for anyone 50 years and older starting next week, and for every Californian starting in mid-April, so the county’s implementation of those new guidelines were not addressed.
Video above, rough transcript below.
Hello we’re here for the March 25th media availability with Family Nurse Practitioner and COVID-19 task force member Lindsey Mendez. Thanks for being with us. Would you like to start by addressing the community?
Yes. Hi Humboldt. This is Lindsay Mendez again just here to give you a short update about the vaccination and the changes that are being made in the state and county levels and how vaccine will be distributed as we move forward. Right now I’d like to tell the community that we had a small allocation in the past of Janssen, but at this time we have not received an allocation to give. We are getting Moderna and Pfizer regularly as we have in the past, but we are fluctuating with the amounts that we are getting. With that said we are going to continue to have vaccine clinics throughout the county with our partners and with the public health department and we would encourage you to get the first appointment that is offered to you with whatever vaccine is offered to you at this time. And always remember to socially distance yourself, wear your mask, and wash your hands as not everybody is inoculated in Humboldt County or in the world.
From KMUD News: Can you share more information on how the distribution of vaccines will change with the upcoming switch to MyTurn….do you support the switch?
MyTurn is a platform that is being used for people to register for vaccine in the state of California. This platform is designed so that in numerous languages you can go in and see if you are eligible to get vaccine and to get an appointment. At this moment in Humboldt County we are not currently using MyTurn, but many other counties are and we are gathering information on how this works. What we do know is that they are changing things in their platform so that zip codes.. may have certain restrictions and we are not sure yet. As we switch over though, we are confident that our staff in the public health department will be able to train and onboard the workers that are in the clinics to use MyTurn appropriately for documentation and for inventory of the vaccine. And we are hopeful that as it opens up we will be able to assist the population in registering for an appointment that they can get at the time that it is available. Thank you.
From KMUD News: It’s our understanding that the My Turn system only works with two hospital computer programs, which none of the hospitals in Humboldt County currently use. How will this impact the roll out locally for staff and the public?
At this time I cannot comment on how the local hospitals will be managing the MyTurn switch with their electronic medical record systems, but I would say that public health is handling it in a way that is appropriate for onboarding their staff to learn MyTurn, on both the public-facing side and also on the clinic side of how to register patients into clinics and also how to use the documentation system.
From KMUD News: Will people from out of our area be eligible to receive a vaccine in Humboldt County?
I would first like to say that the goal in the state of California and in the entire United States is to end the pandemic and to vaccinate everybody including our neighbors. Even people that we aren’t necessarily sharing a county with. With that said we are talking to MyTurn, the workers on that platform and discussing this with Blue Shield about the concerns surrounding people who are eligible to get the vaccine who may not be in our county. We do not know what the turnout of that discussion will be, but we are prioritizing every county resident to get vaccine at this time.
From KMUD News: Do you anticipate other vaccines being approved for use in the United States?
I do not know how to answer that question because we have not been made aware of the FDA looking to approve vaccines at this time, but we will keep you up to date as we find out about any more vaccines that would be coming to the United States.
From the Redheaded Blackbelt: So Hum Health has begun offering the vaccine to a wider range of local residents, is this also going to be happening in northern Humboldt?
Right now the state advisory committee is giving us guidelines of how we are going to open up to a larger amount of the population. These guidelines are by the advisory committee and our local vaccinators all use the advisory committee’s guidelines to approve vaccination status. We are going to be utilizing the guideline that persons who are 16 to 64 with high-risk health conditions - which you can find listed on the state website - will be approved and we would encourage people to call their primary care providers and to also call the Joint Information Center to go on to the interest form if you do not have a primary care provider. Please be aware at this time that the vaccine supply has not always been a static number in our county and that we will be getting to everyone as soon as we can with the amount of vaccine we are offered.
From the Redheaded Blackbelt: Anecdotally, some Humboldt County residents have said they are waiting for the Johnson and Johnson vaccine so that they can avoid having to do a second dose. They are putting off making an appointment for the vaccines currently available. Is this a bad idea? Why or why not?
As a healthcare provider I completely understand persons wishing to choose the vaccine that they would like to have, but I would like to remind everyone that the vaccine that is available to them is the vaccine that they should get. So waiting for the Johnson and Johnson is not necessarily helpful for reaching herd immunity or being quickly vaccinated yourself. We also don’t know how the Janssen supply will be coming into Humboldt County and in what amounts and so if you are offered a vaccine we recommend that you take it.
From the Redheaded Blackbelt: The Johnson and Johnson vaccine has been rated at around a 66% to 72% efficacy rate. Can you talk about why the efficacy rate for the Johnson and Johnson vaccine differs regionally, and if you know what that number looks like for Humboldt County specifically?
So we at this time do not have data on the regional efficacy of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine in Humboldt County because it was not researched in that way. The drug trials that are continuing around the world for the Johnson and Johnson vaccine and also other vaccines will continue to bring us data about regional questions, but we do not have that at this time. What we do know about the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is that it is efficacious as was stated between 66% and 72% for the broad population researched around the world. And we also know that it will decrease 100% severe death and illness with hospitalization and so we understand that this is a great vaccine.
From the Times-Standard: Will the county lower some thresholds on age, BMI or other factors to make vaccines more available to prevent doses from going unused?
I would like to tell the community that there is not any vaccine that is going unused in Humboldt County at this time. The limited supply is more of a hindrance than having too much vaccine that is going unused. As we open up to the broader population, those who have high risk conditions of many age groups, we have to be aware that the supply will dictate how fast and efficiently we can get through these populations and that we will never be wasting doses.
From the Times-Standard: Have there been any challenges in staffing vaccination sites with personnel who can serve Spanish speakers or Hmong speakers?
Yes we’ve been coordinating with community partners for services that are both bilingual and bicultural for our vaccine clinics and we continue to ask and recruit members to come forward to help us with both administrative and clerical work along with vaccinating staff.