Kern County could receive first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines as early as next week, health officials say

December 8, 2020 /

Kern County could receive its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines as soon as next week if the FDA approves the Pfizer vaccine this week, according to local public health officials.

Last week, the Kern County Public Health Department submitted to the California Department of Public Health a draft of a COVID-19 vaccination plan, Brynn Carrigan, the Assistant Director of Kern County Public Health, said at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. Public health is awaiting for input from CDPH. Once Kern Public Health receives input, local officials will obtain stakeholder input for the plan, according to Carrigan.

When Kern receives the first shipment of vaccines, high-risk healthcare workers will be prioritized; however, Carrigan does not anticipate the first shipment will be enough to vaccinate all local healthcare workers.

In order for healthcare workers to receive the vaccine, they must enroll in a monitoring program, which requires daily reporting. This will determine when Kern will receive a second shipment of vaccines, according to Carrigan.

Once the vaccine becomes more widely available, Carrigan said Kern Public Health will work with the Latino Task Force and local leaders to distribute the vaccine and partake in canvassing efforts to educate the community on the vaccine. Public health is also creating a vaccine webpage.

The Kern County Public Health Department has engaged in local canvassing efforts for almost a month. Two teams of 10 people went out to Ridgecrest Tuesday to educate the community on testing sites. These teams have also gone out to Arvin, Wasco, Delano, McFarland, Shafter, Lamont, Oildale and Bakersfield, reaching more than 67,000 residents, according to Carrigan.

Kern County Public Health has also sent out more than 63,000 mailings containing testing information and information regarding the Housing for the Harvest program.

Public Health has also purchased 12,000 visa gift cards to hand out to residents in certain testing locations as an incentive to get tested for COVID-19. Staff began distributing them last week and has distributed more than 5,000 gift cards thus far.

The Kern County Public Health Department announced Tuesday 1,055 new COVID-19 cases in Kern, bringing the total to 46,397 cases. Local health officials also announced 1 new COVID-19 death, bringing the total to 457. 

The California Department of Public Health reported, as of Sunday, there were 207 COVID-19 positive patients in local hospitals in Kern. Of these patients, 47 were in the Intensive Care Unit, leaving 31 ICU beds available.

Although hospital capacity is decreasing, Carrigan said local hospitals have a plan and have been preparing for a surge; however, staffing is the limiting factor.

Carrigan also informed the Kern County Board of Supervisors of outbreaks in local skilled nursing facilities and state prisons in Kern County. Forty-two skilled nursing staff have tested positive for COVID-19, while 33 residents have contracted the virus within the facility, Carrigan said. She also reported 126 inmates across the five state prisons tested positive for COVID-19 in a single day.

Elizabeth Sanchez

Elizabeth Sanchez

Elizabeth Sanchez is the program associate for South Kern Sol. She can be reached at elizabeth@southkernsol.org.