Kern Public Health to open COVID-19 mass vaccination site at Fairgrounds with soft launch this week

January 19, 2021 /

A mass vaccination site in Kern County is set to open Wednesday, Kern County Public Health Department officials said.

During a tour of the mass vaccination site at the Kern County Fairgrounds, Public Health officials said they will begin administering 300 vaccines a day, with a goal to expand to 5,000 a day.

“It’s super important for people to get vaccinated,” said Tom Beckett, a Kern County Public Health staffer. “This is the answer. The answer to get back to normal is the vaccination.”

The appointments to receive a vaccine during Kern Public Health’s vaccination soft launch, which runs from Wednesday through Saturday, are mostly full, said Michelle Corson, the spokeswoman for the Kern County Public Health Department. Corson said health officials were able to get individuals from a the state’s prioritized groups scheduled for the vaccine right away.

Residents who recently called the Department’s call center were able to make appointments. Public Health is prioritizing individuals who are 65 and older and those who have been on prioritized in earlier phases of the state’s vaccination plan, such as healthcare workers and long-term care residents. Kern County is currently phase 1b of the state’s vaccination plan.

Once the Public Health Department is able to operate the vaccination site a full capacity, or when they are able to administer 5,000 vaccines a day, those with appointments will be able to do walk-in appointments or drive-thru appointments.

Tom Beckett stands in front of fencing that will allow people to wait in line to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

For the walk-in appointments, the mass vaccination site consists of a check-in/screening station, an administration station and a waiting station. Individuals will check in at the entrance of the Kern County Fairgrounds on South P Street. Once they are checked in, they will wait in a line to receive their vaccine. Once the individual receives their vaccine, they will be asked to wait 15 to 30 minutes in a waiting room to ensure they do not have any reactions to the vaccine.

During the soft launch, the Kern County Public Health Department is going to administer the Pfizer vaccine. As or right now, the vaccination site is only open four days a week. Once it reaches full capacity, it will operate seven days a week.

The mass vaccination site is not yet open to the public. Those who are able to receive a vaccine on the state’s vaccination plan are able to make appointments for the vaccination site. Public Health is taking appointments only as of right now. Those interested in making an appointment can do so by calling the call center at (661)321-3000.

The Public Health Department has also placed its contact tracing site and alternate care site at the Kern County Fairgrounds. Matt Constantine, the Director of Kern Public Health, said Public Health can have an alternate care site up and running with just 48 hours notice.

As far as staffing the alternate care site, Constantine said he will propose an agreement to the Kern County Board of Supervisors next week to staff the alternate care site at 25 bed increments. The site has the capacity to hold up to 200 beds.

Contact tracers, who are also CSUB nursing students, are contact tracing in a building at the Kern County Fairgrounds, which can become an alternate care site to provide relief to hospitals if needed.

The purpose of the site is to, “help the hospitals handle increased flows,” Constantine said. The alternate care site will provide care for low-risk patients, said Constantine. And it will not just be for COVID-19 patients. It will also provide care for other cases, such as having a broken arm.

As of Tuesday, Kern County had 621 hospital beds available and 27 ICU beds available, according to Constantine.

In that same building is the contact tracing site, which is currently staffed with CSUB nursing students. Health officials estimate each positive case has an average of four contacts, meaning the contract tracers are trying to reach up to 5,000 people on some days.

“It takes a lot of effort to try to keep us all safe,” said Constantine.

Health officials said the set up at the Fairgrounds is all scalable. Health officials hope to increase vaccine administrations as the days go on, hope to expand to a drive-thru model, and hope to have access to a state system that will allow residents to make vaccine appointments.

Elizabeth Sanchez

Elizabeth Sanchez

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