With more groups becoming eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine through the state’s directive, Fresno County has ramped up its distribution this week, surpassing its goal of vaccinating 3,000 people per day.
Joe Prado, a division manager with the Fresno County Department of Public Health, said during a Friday briefing that the county is averaging over 1,000 doses per day at the Sierra Orthopedic clinic in north Fresno, between 1,500-1,600 at the Fresno Fairgrounds site and 500 per day at the United Health Centers site located at Central High School. The county is also vaccinating about 200 individuals every day at its inpatient psychiatric clinic.
All in all, with the first week of mass-vaccination in the books – even with people reportedly having to wait in a line for several hours at these sites – Fresno County health officials believe that they have proven to the state and federal government that the county can handle a greater distribution of vaccine doses.
Prado said that two weeks ago the county was not in any position to request a greater allocation of doses.
“We’re in a different place now,” Prado said. “We’re in a place where our distribution system with our providers is growing at a rapid rate. So that is something that’s going to be very key for us to ask – and we have – for additional vaccine and see what the results of that are.
“Because now we need to evaluate the second dose regiment, and with our current allocation it wouldn’t be sufficient to run all of our clinics the way we are today to have a second dose available. So we are making our adjustments, and we are requesting additional vaccine.”
Central to the county’s ability to handle a greater allocation of the COVID-19 vaccine is the number of health care providers – such as general practitioners – that have signed up to be vaccine distributors. That allows the county to have those vaccine doses shipped directly to the providers and removes itself from playing the “middle man.”
That’s become a crucial development for Fresno County, especially because the Moderna freezer at the department is still not working. The freezer broke last week, and while the county got it back up and running, Prado said it did not meet the requirements to store the vaccine for three days in a row, and the county was left Friday once again bringing a technician in to work on it.
For the time being, however, it doesn’t really matter. Fresno County has a backup freezer for the Moderna doses that it has been using, and Prado said the ability to have the doses directly shipped to the providers will not impact the county’s order of Moderna doses next week.
In total, Fresno County has received 47,000 doses of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine, and it has distributed 77 percent of that allocation.
Although 23 percent of the doses are still being held at the health department, Prado said said all of those doses have been spoken for and will be sent out to the county vaccine clinics and various providers.
Hospitalizations, fatalities remain high
Even with the good news of the vaccine distribution underway, Fresno County is still right in the middle of the recent COVID-19 surge.
According to the latest update from the state, Fresno County has 614 hospitalized patients who have tested positive for the coronavirus, as well as an additional 34 patients who are suspected of having the virus.
Of that total, 109 COVID-19 patients are currently being cared for in the ICU, leaving the county with very few ICU beds to work with.
The number of total fatalities to the virus has risen to 932, with Fresno County averaging close to 20 deaths per day over the last two weeks.