BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — The first COVID-19 vaccines rolled out in Kern County last December. Since then Governor Gavin Newsom attributed low vaccination numbers statewide to a dwindling supply of vaccines.
Early on only those with the highest risk of getting infected were allowed to get vaccinated. Then as months passed more people were allowed to get the vaccine, starting first with people over the age of 65 and expanding to people in the education and agricultural sectors.
Last week, Governor Newsom rolled up his sleeve and got his shot as the state allowed anyone over the age of 50 to get vaccinated.
The state is just 10 days away until it allows all counties to extend vaccine eligibility to those 16 and older. But ahead of that milestone, the state has allowed several counties including Kern to get a head start.
Sixteen years old is not only the benchmark to get a driver’s license but now a COVID vaccine as well.
"You can get the vaccine and you can get the vaccine immediately," said Kern County Public Health spokeswoman Michelle Corson. "We just needed more vaccine and we have been advocating the state- many of us have - that we just need more vaccine. Well, vaccine has started to flow."
Individuals 16 years old and older eligible for COVID-19 vaccination
That flow expected to bring more than 39,000 vaccines to the county this week. A record distribution so far.
As of Sunday, 316,312 doses have been administered to Kern County residents. 116,705 or 12.7% of Kern’s population have completed their vaccination series, including 12,883 who were vaccinated with J&J. Another 92,582 people have received one dose of their two-dose series. Approximately 46% of Kern’s 65 and older population is now fully vaccinated.
But Corson says additional factors influenced the county to move ahead making Kern one of 9 counties to allow those 16 and older to get vaccinated according to a 23ABC tally. Though there may be more.
"We'd also have been hearing from our partners that they were not filling all of their appointments. So we felt that that was an indication that now would be a time to seek approval from the state to open up early."
This comes ahead of the state's plan to extend eligibility to everyone on April 15th.
Bakersfield resident Diane Zavala has already been vaccinated and is glad those close to her can join the club.
"I have a lot of friends, family members who have been waiting to get the vaccine, and opening up the date range for that is going to make it more possible for more individuals to do so."
But should a healthy young adult, let alone a 16 and 17-year-old, get vaccinated when health experts have reported all pandemic long that younger groups respond better to the virus than older populations.
Local Adventist Health Doctor Amolika Mangat believes they should.
"Absolutely true. Young people who don't have any comorbid conditions may actually do really well even if they get the COVID-19 virus. The issue is that transmission to others. When they are sick and if they are bringing in the illness. If they have elderly grandparents, parents, siblings that have immunocompromising conditions. They can absolutely cause them to get infected."
As of now, only the Pfizer vaccine is authorized to be administered to those 16 and older. The Moderna vaccine and Johnson and Johnson vaccine are only for those 18 and older.
You can visit Kern County Public Health's website to find out exactly which clinic has Pfizer vaccines available.
Public Health plans to open the Kern County Fairgrounds mass vaccination site drive-thru should this new phase of vaccine administration cause an uptick of appointments at the site.
The Kern County Fairgrounds Mass Vaccination Clinic has open appointments this week from Wednesday through Sunday. At this ADA-compliant clinic, vaccines are free, no ID is required.
Public Health urges residents to continue to stay safe, practice healthy habits, and get vaccinated when it’s their turn.
To make an appointment, visit the state's MyTurn website or you can call the public health call center at (661) 321-3000.
People in certain industries and of certain ages were allowed to get vaccinated against COVID-19 first because of their elevated risks. But data shows that some races are more susceptible to infection and are more likely to die because of COVID-19.
So how are efforts going to vaccinate those groups?
As it stands right now about 30 percent of people who've gotten the COVID-19 vaccine in the state are white. Latinos make up the next largest fraction of those vaccinated with nearly 20 percent.
Asian-Americans make up about 12 percent of all vaccinations and the black community is at roughly 3 percent.
Data shows that African-Americans and Latinos are at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19. Of all the people infected with the virus, those two demographics are the majority of the deaths