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County to expand vaccine access to Phase 1B Saturday

Frontline workers in emergency services, childcare/education and food/agriculture will be eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine starting Saturday.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — San Diego County pushed up the vaccine eligibility date for members of Phase 1B – Tier 1 from Mar. 1 to Feb. 27. The decision means an additional 500,000 educators, police officers, grocery workers and others will be able to get vaccinated against coronavirus.

The announcement followed a week of canceled second dose appointments at some county-funded vaccine sites because of delayed shipments. They are still trying to reschedule everyone as more Moderna vaccines arrive.

So far, approximately 68% of seniors and all long-term care facilities have received at least their first shot.

“More than 783,000 vaccines have been administered, one in five, 20% have received at least that initial dose,” said Supervisor Nathan Fletcher.

The county pledged to set aside 20% of vaccine shipments for school staff, double the number required by the state. The decision to begin vaccinating teachers and educational support staff was welcome news for districts that are planning to resume some in-person instruction. Some have said they will only do so once staff are vaccinated.

RELATED: San Diego Unified announces April 12 as target date to re-open district classrooms with hybrid-learning model

The County Office of Education is leading the effort to vaccinate TK-12 employees beginning first with districts that are open or are planning to reopen soon in communities that have been hit hardest by the virus.

“There’s going to be considerable strain on the vaccination system and on the appointment system. We need folks to understand that as supplies increase, and we feel confident, particularly in the first and second week of March that we will see increased supply of vaccines, which will allow us to make more appointments available,” said Fletcher.

Here are answers to frequently asked questions about Wednesday’s announcement:

I’m a TK-12 teacher, where should I get my vaccine?

Educators and staff in TK-12 schools will get vaccination information from their district. Vaccinations are being coordinated by the County Office of Education and the California Schools Voluntary Employee Benefits Association (VEBA). More information can be found here. The county asks that you do not make an appointment at a vaccination site.

I work in emergency services. Where can I get vaccinated?

Scripps will work with law enforcement agencies starting Saturday. All other workers can go to county sites.

Are there special accommodations for farmworkers?

Yes. San Diego County Fire will work to vaccinate farmworkers. Other food and agriculture workers can use county sites.

How do I know if my job qualifies me for Phase 1B?
The county uses state guidelines to define employment sectors. You can read more about the sectors to determine eligibility here.

When can youth sports begin?

The county needs an adjusted case rate of 14.0 or lower for youth sports to resume. Fletcher predicted that will likely occur next week.

Why are there first dose appointments available now when I’m still waiting on my second dose?

“We’ve had instability. We had a big shortage of Moderna [vaccines] so we’ve been canceling second dose appointments for Moderna while opening up new first dose appointments for Pfizer. It’s just what comes in, when it comes in and what people have available,” explained Fletcher.

Must I return to the same location for my second dose?

The county prefers you get both doses at the same location. However, you may get a second dose at another site. You must receive the same vaccine brand for both shots.

When will vaccine eligibility expand further?

Adults with some pre-existing conditions will be eligible to receive their vaccine on March 15. Other expansions are dependent on supply and demand.

Will San Diego get the Johnson and Johnson vaccine?

If it is given emergency use authorization, then San Diego will receive the vaccine. The county was one of many locations around the world where it was tested. Some health experts predict the Johnson and Johnson vaccine will help speed up vaccinations because it only requires a single dose and needs normal refrigeration.

RELATED: FDA staff releases review of Johnson & Johnson single-dose COVID vaccine

“If the same process that occurred with Pfizer and Moderna occurs we will see additional vaccines on Monday,” said Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., adding she did not know how many doses to expect. “One-dose vaccination is really great for vulnerable populations. It does not require the ultra-cold freezer support as the Pfizer vaccine requires. It really would be a great vaccine to take out into locations to vaccinate individuals that are hard to reach, like homeless individuals, much like we did when vaccinating [against] Hepatitis A.”


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