Health officials optimistic about vaccines, but still urging the public to stay vigilant

Posted at 10:18 AM, Mar 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-17 13:18:45-04

In this ongoing battle against COVID-19, many have been awaiting the eligibility to bear vaccine doses in our arms. It's a protection president Joe Biden plans to make available to the general public as soon as May.

“That’s our goal, that vaccines are our hope, that we’re going to get back to some type of normal,” Terri Church, Chief Nursing Officer at Memorial Hospital said.

Church added that ICUs haven't been as overwhelmed.

“Really throughout our three campuses, today we’ve seen less than 60 patients in a hospital, so I feel like our nursing staff can take a deep breath,” Church said.

Kimberly Hernandez, Assistant Division Director of Health Services for the Kern County Department of Public Health said that even COVID-19 cases have been going down.

“We’ll hopefully get to the point where we’re not seeing a hundred cases a day, we’re thankfully out of seeing a thousand a day,” she said.

Chief Medical Advisor to President Joe Biden, Dr. Anthony Fauci even said that with vaccinations and protections like masking and social distancing, we could reach herd immunity in the summer. With that being said, the year-long fight against COVID-19 isn’t over yet.

“There is no magic end date,” Hernandez said. “We don’t say on July 1, COVID is no more. We want to see where this takes us.”

Hernandez, who has been at the forefront of the vaccine rollout locally, said Kern County has enough doses to cover 8.5 percent of the population so far.

“We know that masking works,” Hernandez said. “We know that distancing works. We know that vaccinating is just a layer on top of all the layers we’ve put up to protect ourselves.”

Every day more and more people are getting vaccinated at one of Kern County’s over 100 vaccination sites across community providers like pharmacies and hospitals.

One of those providers, Dignity Health Medical Group - Bakersfield, plans to set up a consortium with Kaiser Permanente and Adventist Health Bakersfield by the end of March. Church projects mass vaccination starting at 2000 and eventually 5000 people a week on csub’s campus.

“So our goal is to give about 400,000 plus vaccines when we’re all done, so that should go a long way in making a dent,” Church said.

Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been administered in Kern County since December. Johnson & Johnson, Hernandez said, became available for order at the beginning of the month. Some doses, Kern County Public Health said are even with community providers right now.

Public Health announced that as of Monday, people ages 16-64 with

certain health conditions, disabilities, illness, and living spaces or work environments that put them at higher risk for serious covid-19 illness, are eligible for vaccination in addition to the elderly, frontline workers, first responders and teachers.

"That probably adds another 400 to 500,000 people in our community that become eligible for vaccination," Hernandez said.

Appointments depend on how many doses get allocated to California then to local public health on a week-to-week basis. The vaccine rollout, Hernandez said, was inconsistent at first but has grown steadier over the last month. she adds they get administered within a week of their reception.

Kern county Department of Public Health Director Brynn Carrigan said at last week's Kern County Board of Supervisors meeting Kern County has the capacity to administer one dose to 55,000 residents per week across the community providers, but it's a matter of getting allocated those doses.

"That of course depends on vaccine production across the country and how it's being allocated to the states," Hernandez said.

Meanwhile, Hernandez says there are still some unknowns

like new variants and likelihood of reinfection from those variants.

Plus, there are still community transmissions and undetected cases.

“We have to be vigilant because we don’t want to see what we saw over the winter,” Hernandez said. “The winter was a very heavy surge across the country, we felt that here in our community and we want to protect ourselves against that.”

Hernandez encourages anyone who wants to get the vaccine to check "My Turn," the public health call center, and with community providers like pharmacies regularly. Public health announces rollouts via social media too.

Hernandez also encourages people to be enrolled in the CDC’s V-safe program and to be in communication with your healthcare provider in case you have reactions to the vaccine.

The CDC updates possible symptoms people may get after receiving the vaccine constantly, so that public health can let the community know.

For anyone still on the fence, Kern County Public Health encourages them to contact their call center or individual care providers with questions.