SAN MATEO (CBS SF) – The San Mateo County Event Center has shifted from being used for COVID-19 testing to vaccination, as the county’s vaccine rollout continues via several clinics this week and next.

While last Friday was the last day of COVID-19 testing at the Event Center, multiple free testing sites are still offered throughout the county. A full testing schedule is available at https://www.smcgov.org/testing.

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As of Tuesday, 67,292 San Mateo County residents have received at least the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to county data. That’s 10% of the 642,340 individuals 16 years and older who will eventually be eligible for the vaccine. Right now, vaccination is underway for health care workers and long-term care residents (Phase 1A of the state’s vaccine tiers) and for groups 65 or 75 years and older (Phase 1B).

During a COVID-19 media briefing on Wednesday, County Manager Mike Callagy said that the county will continue to be a safety net for people who are uninsured and cannot get vaccinated through health care providers.

While the county hopes to increase vaccination efforts, they are limited by the short supply.

“We could go seven days a week at multiple sites. We’re prepared to do that once the doses get here, but that is not the case right now for sure,” Callagy said.

This week, San Mateo County Health’s vaccine allocation will be used at the Event Center to vaccinate eligible individuals age 65 and older, such as those covered by the Health Plan of San Mateo.

The Event Center clinic will take place Wednesday through Friday and has capacity to vaccinate 2,000 people per day. From Feb. 8 to 11, and again Feb. 13 and 14, the clinic will provide second doses for about 14,000 individuals who would have received the first dose in January.

Larger health care providers like Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Health/Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF) have begun vaccination for individuals 65 or 75 years and older. As of Tuesday, Kaiser and Sutter/PAMF had vaccinated just over 10,000 individuals each in San Mateo County. CVS and Walgreens have together vaccinated 7,865 individuals so far, through a federal partnership that provides vaccination to assisted living facilities.

Moving forward, Callagy said the county aims to create a call center to help people access vaccinations.

“We’ll be able to help them arrange appointments, potentially arrange transportation, get them to the nearest site, make sure that they have family or friends who remind them and constantly be that reminder in order to get as many folks as possible that we are charged with,” Callagy said. The initiative would target people that the county is responsible for vaccinating, like those who are uninsured or who lack other access.

Deputy Chief of San Mateo County Health Srija Srinivasan said the county is using its vaccine allocation to prioritize vulnerable communities. Last week, 50% of the county’s allocation went to smaller health care providers and clinics like the Ravenswood Family Health Center in East Palo Alto, which hosted a vaccination clinic Saturday after receiving 1,100 Moderna vaccine doses.

Vaccine equity in terms of race and ethnicity may be hard to parse out at this time. Latinx/Hispanic people represent about 42% of total cases to date, the highest of any group. But among vaccinated individuals, over 25,000 are white, compared to just over 5,000 who are Hispanic.

Srinivasan said that the question of vaccine equity is an important one but since only certain groups are eligible for the vaccine, the county would need to know the race/ethnicity makeup of those groups to use as a reference point.

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Teachers and school staff, food and agriculture workers, and first responders are next in line for the vaccine once vaccination is complete for the 65 and 75 and older age group. The county has reached about 22% of the roughly 130,000 individuals who are 65 and older, Srinivasan said.

It is unclear exactly when teachers will be vaccinated as it depends on the vaccine supply.

Even though COVID-19 cases in the county have been going down since mid-January, and hospitalizations have declined, Srinivasan said that hospitals continue to be strained.

“While the rates have gone down, they’re still quite high if you look at our dashboard and what the curve looks like. This is still a period of widespread transmission,” she said.

Srinivasan said that while COVID-19 variants seem to be more contagious, she does not know whether the variants are directly causing increased deaths.

There have been 395 deaths overall in the county, with 86 occurring in the last two weeks.

Callagy encouraged people to continue taking precautions, especially as Super Bowl Sunday approaches.

“Hopefully, we are beyond our darkest days but that will depend on how we react to this,” Callagy said. “I know everyone wants to get together and celebrate and make up for lost time, but the end is in sight. Let’s cross the finish line together.”

People should continue to wear a face mask, avoid gatherings, practice social distancing and wash hands frequently, even if they’ve been vaccinated.

San Mateo County remains in the most restrictive purple tier of the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, which restricts indoor operations for many businesses and activities.

To learn more about San Mateo County’s COVID-19 vaccination program, visit https://www.smchealth.org/covid-19-vaccination.

Visit https://www.smchealth.org/coronavirus-health-data for county COVID-19 data.

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