By John Ramos

SANTA ROSA (KPIX) — The progress of administering vaccines has been slow and frustrating. Now, private doctors in the North Bay are banding together to offer vaccinations to medical staff waiting for their shot at immunity.

A small room next to Sonoma County’s Health Laboratory is meant to plug a large gap in who is currently getting the vaccine. When hospitals became the primary source of vaccination, those serving in private medical practices were left out.

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“We realized that we were going to miss out and not be protected as we continued to provide medical care to the people in our practices,” said Dr. Robert Schulman, president of the Sonoma County Medical Association.

So the medical society set up its own clinic, vaccinating dentists, nurses and those who work in medical offices not associated with hospitals. Representing doctors across the state, Dr. Peter Bretan, president of the California Medical Association, believes it will be in a non-hospital setting that most Americans will eventually get their shot of vaccine.

“This (Sonoma) is the first county medical association in the whole state of California to start vaccinating doctors who are not hospital-based in preparation for later vaccination of all their patients.”

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Currently, the space is small and, with a mandate that vaccine recipients wait 15 minutes before leaving, they can only service about 200 people a day. Wendy Young, executive director of SCMA and organizer of the clinic, said there is room for the operation to become a lot more efficient.

“What we have right now … doctors are vaccinating four people an hour,” Young said. “They can vaccinate 40 people an hour with the rest of the admin staff doing the paperwork and checking the right boxes, making sure the state has what they need.”

“I think what we’re doing is creating a model that other medical associations in the state and around the county will be able to use,” Dr. Schulman said.

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Gearing up for a pandemic while the pandemic is happening has been compared to building an airplane while it’s already in flight. Clinics like the one in Santa Rosa are a first step in making sure there are enough health care workers to get us all safely back to earth.