IRVINE, Calif. — With vaccine supplies trickling into Orange County, some of the highest risk groups are still waiting. Some of them are seniors, a sometimes hard to reach group whose oldest members may not be able to travel.
Irvine has created a COVID-19 task force to coordinate its response. Part of its objective has been to put together an awareness campaign of radio ads and other announcements. The task force includes Mayor Farrah Khan and representatives from Kaiser Permanente, Hoag Health Network, and UCI Health.
The city has roughly 18,000 seniors, and like other local municipalities, it hasn’t received as many vaccines as needed. Vaccines are distributed by Orange County health officials and dispensed through the Orange County Fire Authority. Local fire departments have helped, some gathering seasonal staff like lifeguards for support roles at vaccination sites.
But some who are eligible for a vaccine don’t get one.
“One of the things we were facing this past month and a half is the scarcity of vaccines,” Mayor Farrah Khan said.
Cities do not receive a supply of vaccines. So the Irvine task force found its own pipeline. COVID-19 vaccines are available only to certain groups, like health care workers, first responders, and seniors. Health officials and local governments have struggled to get every person eligible to receive a vaccine to register. Sometimes, the gap between appointments and available recipients causes some doses to expire.
The Irvine program aims to mitigate that problem. Khan reached out to the task force, which she said meets about once a month, and got the ball rolling.
The task force identified candidates through a series of local programs, including Meals on Wheels. While some seniors have been reluctant to receive the vaccine, Khan said that wasn’t a problem. MemorialCare had 200 extra vials, the task force scheduled 200 recipients, and the vaccinations were completed February 19 at Lakeview Senior Center.
Khan and mayors across Orange County are preparing for a dramatic scale-up in vaccine delivery. Makers of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine have long discussed increases in production, while the Johnson & Johnson single-dose drug is expected in the coming months.
Khan hopes the partnership can continue for other seniors who may not be able to get to a super POD site or super point of dispensing. Of the 200 seniors, 71 were homebound.
“A lot of our seniors were not feeling comfortable with signing onto an app,” Khan said.
Khan’s not sure when more doses will be available, but the trial program has helped the city ad to a distribution system for when more vaccines are available.
“We have a waiting list of seniors who are ready for us to do this again,” she said.