A Vaccine Story on the Power of Community Engagement

January was a record month for the greatest number of COVID Deaths in Sonoma County and 65% of those deaths were in senior congregate living facilities. Meanwhile, a large local continuing care retirement community (CCRC) didn't receive its first vaccinations until January 31.  Only 20 of our 176 assisted living facilities even have a date set. Crista Nelson, our head of Senior Advocacy Services, estimated that at this rate most of our residential care facilities wouldn't be vaccinated until July.  Fortunately, over the last 2 weeks, a huge collaborative effort between CDPH, Public Health, Local Pharmacies, Local hospital systems, and adjacent county providers, the situation has dramatically improved.  By the end this month, most of the residents and healthcare workers who want to be vaccinated will have received at least their first vaccine injection.  In addition, the Kaiser Team and a home care agency have been approved for making house calls on homebound persons and their caregivers.  Prisoners are also receiving vaccines.  This ramping up of the delivery of vaccines wouldn't have been possible without the heroic efforts of our public health department and the trusting relationships that have developed in this community over the course of the pandemic.  At a federal level, improving production and delivery of vaccines to the states has been huge.  We are now in the position of identifying which facilities need more help with staff vaccine hesitancy.  I've attached an excellent presentation on the subject of vaccine hesitancy provided by UCSF's Dr. Bryn Boslett, who was able to comment on the importance of the vaccine in pregnant healthcare workers by her own experience.  In Sonoma County, what once looked bleak, is now an example of what an engaged and coordinated healthcare community can achieve. 

Excuses are not what our high-risk seniors deserve.  The problem in my county isn’t isolated, but actually seems to be the norm.  Please see the attached coverage from Kaiser Health News, reported on CNN and in Annals of Long-Term Care of 1/15/21 titled “CVS and Walgreens under Fire for Slow Pace of Vaccination in Nursing Homes” (https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/15/health/pharmacies-nursing-homes-covid-19-vaccines-kaiser-khn/index.html).  

The solution to our distribution problem requires a better Federal process that addresses the shortages of these vaccines and fosters better development of more rapid distribution processes.  Some of these processes are identified in the above article.  

President Biden and his advisors need to fully appreciate that the time for vaccinations in this population is NOW!  Failure to act decisively on this need is resulting in unnecessary disease and deaths among our precious elders.

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