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April 16, 2021 – Message from the Chief
Louise Rogers, chief, San Mateo County Health

Health Officer Updates Messages from the Chief

Our COVID-19 vaccine rollout in San Mateo County continues to inspire hope each day, while I know you are likely hearing and experiencing some frustration about the opening of vaccine eligibility to all residents age 16+ this week.

The opening comes at a time of constrained vaccine supply, including the pause in use of the Janssen vaccine for the CDC to conduct research into the 6 cases of blood clotting out of 6.8 million vaccines administered. Living each day with the persistence of the virus challenges all of our resilience in summoning patience for the future when every San Mateo County resident can easily access the vaccine. But the number of vaccinated residents rises each day, and we continue to overcome challenges in reaching more residents. The State immunization registry data as of April 15th shows that 383,692 individuals have been vaccinated, which is 59.7% of our total County adult population! We are truly getting better at getting better, even as new hurdles arise.

Several new State guidance policies came out today that all point to the hopeful potential to connect with others: a) gatherings; b) what one can do when fully vaccinated; c) private events which all point to the ability to connect safely with others.

We can see from the data dashboard that 112,776 residents 65 and older have been vaccinated so far. This is 86.8% of this group. Of residents 75 and over we have vaccinated 49,175 or 89.4% of this age group. We are continuing to find ways to overcome the barriers preventing older adults from being reached and appreciate the roles that family members and neighbors across the County have played to connect their loved ones to available opportunities. We were glad to hear from the daughter (who lives in Oregon) of a resident who will be able to celebrate her 94th birthday in July, having overcome the challenges of a year and a half of isolation and navigating the vaccine appointment landscape with our help. Stories like these replenish our resolve to meet the demands of the last miles of a marathon that our residents are enduring and conquering. We acknowledge the grief that many residents have also reckoned with along the way.

As with so much of the pandemic experience, the impacts have varied by family and by community. Some of our communities have risked significant exposure as essential workers who have protected all of us while also doing all they can to protect their own families. This past week and in the coming week, we continue to focus our limited vaccine supply on the specific communities where our vaccine reach has been the lowest and COVID-19 case rates have persisted at levels higher than our County’s overall rate. These efforts reached 2,445 residents with first doses in targeted neighborhoods, 1,600 San Mateo Medical Center patients at one of our primary care clinics, and 126 unsheltered homeless residents reached by our Public Health Policy and Planning Street and Field Medicine team. With a 10% gap in vaccine reach of our lowest Health Equity Quartile communities compared to our Countywide reach, we will remain focused on removing barriers for these residents through hyperlocal strategies, while we also plan for mass vaccination efforts that will be possible when vaccine supply increases. 

We are striving to keep residents informed of the many updates that offer both opportunities and challenges. There are at least 38 retail pharmacy locations in San Mateo County where COVID-19 vaccination appointments can be booked, though we know they are taken up quickly. We have benefitted from a great collaboration with our local Safeway partners that has enabled us to reach residents with developmental disabilities, residents insured by Health Plan of San Mateo, and many grocery and food service/ restaurant workers. Safeway will now be receiving vaccine directly from Blue Shield, leading to our locally tailored partnership coming to an end.

Thanks for all you are doing each day in so many ways to lift this effort.