"If we had more supply, we could actually do three to four times as many vaccines per day, immediately,” Dr. Geoffrey Leung of Riverside University Health System told the Board of Supervisors Tuesday morning.
While it's no surprise the demand for the coronavirus vaccine is far outpacing the supply, what did upset supervisors was that Riverside County was receiving fewer doses per capita than neighboring counties.
San Diego County and Santa Clara County received a larger number of vaccines per capita than Riverside County, Kim Saruwatari, Riverside County’s Public Health Director, explained.
Both were "around 180 vaccines per 1,000 residents," while Riverside County received 100 vaccines per 1,000 residents.
The reason? According to Saruwatari, California Department of Public Health used an allocation methodology that includes looking at the total population of healthcare workers. San Diego County has about 2.5 times the number of healthcare workers that Riverside County does.
“I would just love to see their data that shows that any healthcare worker is anywhere near the danger compared to somebody that’s an elderly person.” Hewitt said.
“This pandemic since day one was to flatten the curve, but also to isolate ourselves enough so that we didn’t kill our grandparents. Now, this is all of a sudden become about first responders and healthcare people because somehow they have become elevated to a higher stage. If indeed their lives, their hospitalization rates, and their mortality rates are equal, I don’t have a problem with this at all. But we’ve seen the numbers and I would love to see their justification for doing this”
“I’m a little skeptical of the state’s explanation of the ratio of doses to wealthier counties that have higher healthcare professionals as the justification why poorer counties should not have as many doses available to their residents.” Supervisor Kevin Jeffries said.
Jeffries noted Los Angeles County did not get more doses per capita than Riverside County, but still was concerned by the differences. "It just smells bad that if you're wealthy and you've got ... a higher number of healthcare employees, you get more doses, and the rest of you, good luck."
“It’s been an ongoing issue for years,” Supervisor V. Manuel Perez said, “The Inland Empire, County of Riverside and San Bernardino County have always, unfortunately, have not received its fair share dating back to realignment 1991, right, and we still continue with those struggles today.”
Perez wished the state had provided the allocation criteria earlier in the process. “We thought that it was based on population.”
“I appreciate obviously our healthcare workers to be able to receive the vaccine, and our frontline workers that are in public safety to be able to receive their vaccines,” Perez said, but referenced studies of other industries that are highly impacted, including farmworkers, restaurant workers and those in grocery stores and warehouses.
Saruwatari said the state is now transitioning to include those aged 65+ in estimates, "so as this is phasing in, we will see this increase in allocation."
“We do have a large population of elderly people that live in the County of Riverside, particularly in my district," Perez noted.
Riverside County Spokesperson Brooke Federico explained the allocations in a statement reading:
"Vaccine allocations are based on the priority population estimates for each county. Initially, this included healthcare workers who work in the county plus residents of Skilled Nursing Facilities/Long Term Care Facilities (SNFs/LTCFs) – which for Riverside County amounted to a total population of 113,614 for the allocation denominator. Using this number as the denominator, we received 4.3% of the total vaccine allocated in California. By comparison, San Diego County had a healthcare and SNF/LTCF workforce of 352,174 people and received 13.3% of the total vaccine allocated in California.
Three weeks ago, CDPH began including 65+ populations in the denominator as well, and starting with today’s first dose allocations, because entities have thus far been allocated enough vaccine to cover their Phase 1A populations, those estimates will be phased out of the denominator. Half of the Phase 1A denominator will be removed for the Feb. 9 allocation and the remaining half will be removed for the Feb. 16 allocation such that the 65+ population will be the base in the denominator.
For Riverside County, our population of individuals 65 and older is 387,429 and we will receive 6.19% of the total vaccine allocation in California starting with our Feb. 16 allocation. For comparison, San Diego County has 496,742 individuals aged 65 and older and will receive 7.94% of the total vaccine allocation as of Feb. 16."
Getting a vaccine
The portal to make an appointment for vaccination can be accessed via
www.rivcoph.org/COVID-19-Vaccine. Anyone who needs assistance may also call the county's 211 helpline. You can also email RIVCO.VACCINES@RUHEALTH.ORG. County health officials say they believe they are staffed at levels to reply to all messages.
How to get tested
You are now able to get a free test at many Rite-Aids in the area. Click here for a full list of stores and to schedule your appointment.
Stay up-to-date with the latest local coronavirus news, including reopenings and closing, new case data, live news conferences, and other updates at KESQ.com/Coronavirus or download the News Channel 3 app on the Apple Store and Google Play.