With three COVID-19 vaccines now approved and available to anyone 12 or older, nearly 80 percent of eligible San Mateo County residents are now vaccinated, making this the fourth-most-vaccinated county in the state.
But even after distributing nearly a million doses, county health officials are aggressively promoting the vaccines. They’re aiming to get 90 percent of residents age 12 and older fully vaccinated.
County Manager Mike Callagy said at last week’s press briefing that getting the remaining residents access to shots will take time, effort and deliberate outreach, but many barriers — most notably vaccine availability — no longer exist.
“Supply is no longer an issue,” Callagy said. “Now it's a matter of getting people to the vaccine sites.”
The vaccine is now so ubiquitous at local pharmacies, clinics and even in doctors’ offices across the county that the Health Department will now close its mass vaccination site at the San Mateo Event Center to first dose clinics, Callagy said. Instead, the county will continue its focus on local walk-up clinics with flexible hours for those who need it. Callagy said county leaders are even contemplating offering the vaccine at the San Mateo County Fair alongside incentives like free admission or tokens to spend at the event.
Meanwhile, case rates have improved as the spread of COVID-19 has slowed in the county, allowing it to stay in the yellow tier — allowing most businesses to be open — until June 15. That’s when California Gov. Gavin Newsom has said the state will reopen fully, lifting mask, social distancing and capacity regulations in all cases except for at large events like concerts and fairs.
“It's hard to believe we’ve come that far in such a short time,” Callagy said.
But that doesn’t mean people aren’t still getting COVID-19. Daily new cases are now hovering in the teens and 20s, and the county reported five more deaths in the last two weeks after almost a month of no new deaths.
County Health Deputy Chief Srija Srinivasan said that while public health officials are looking ahead to reopening and will continue to reopen in line with state and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, they aren’t taking their eye off the ball. If a new surge of cases were to emerge, she said, the pandemic infrastructure the county has built over the last year, including widespread testing, contact tracing, support for those in quarantine, vaccination availability and particularly their stock of personal protective equipment, is ready.
“The winter, in particular, was so brutal for residents who lost loved ones,”
Srinivasan said. “Sadly, from what we experienced, we’ve gotten better at mobilizing.”