New Priorities Will Speed Vaccine Distribution in Oakland

image of a vial and needle against a blue background
Photo by Markus Spiske via Unsplash.

Following Governor Newsom’s urgent COVID-19 announcements this past Monday, Alameda and other Bay Area Counties are compressing the priority tiers for distributing vaccines to seniors and essential workers. Plans are also under way for mass vaccinations at sports arenas like the Oakland Coliseum and the Alameda County fairgrounds.

To speed up the vaccine roll out, new state guidelines will allow local counties to combine the tiers for seniors over 65 with seniors over 75 and cover all age-vulnerable Californians sooner. People over 50 years of age and those with serious underlying health issues will be covered in tier 1c. (See how to get notified about when you turn comes up, below).

Dentists and their staff have been added to the health worker category for the current Phase 1a, protecting those workers earlier. Clergy were also just added to the essential worker category.

Members of Alameda County’s Community COVID Advisory Group (CAG) went over the changes to the phases of vaccine distribution on Tuesday, January 12, and also reviewed plans for messaging COVID information to the community at large. The priority scheme shown below was updated on Monday to include the newest State guidelines, which also follow revised CDC recommendations.

Like other counties in California, Alameda County health officials are considering large sites for drive-through mass vaccinations. This was discussed at at this week’s CAG meeting. They have held flu clinics at the county fair grounds and will likely include both large and smaller community distribution sites.

This will be discussed by the Coliseum Authority but already Oakland A’s President Dave Kaval showed support by tweeting on Jan 14 : “The Athletics are working with several providers to make it happen.”

COVID-19 vaccines are also making their way to the community clinics used by many low-income families. According to Dr. Gerard Jenkins, Director of Oakland’s Native American Health Center (NAHC), vaccines starting going to its staff late last week and most of their staff will have been vaccinated by the end of next week. “Our internal vaccinations have been successful thus far,” Jenkins said.

Because NAHC receives its vaccines from both the County and also the federal Indian Health Service, Jenkins expects to begin inoculating its more elderly 65+ from Tier 1 – Phase 1c in the coming weeks, which is ahead of some other clinics. “We want to ensure our patients get their doses as soon as possible,” Jenkins added.

Oakland Voices also spoke with Dr. Laura Miller, who leads the Community Health Center Network (CHCN), which is the administrative body for 8 community clinics such as La Clínica de La Raza, the West Oakland Health Center, and NAHC.

Miller still works a half day each week at LifeLong East Oakland Health Center. “So where we are now … is offering shots to clinic health workers and recently to community testing workers, including those doing in home support services,” she said. “And when we get the green light, we will [give out doses] to those over 65 and 75.” Miller said CHCN was concerned about building trust in the community because “people have concerns about being experimented on, there is a history there.”

More Info On Vaccines in Oakland

The County web page for COVID-19 information now includes icons to register for email updates about the phases of vaccine distribution. This information service is not a mechanism to make appointments to get vaccinated—that will be organized by the organizations hosting the vaccine site. But having residents and employers register will provide the County with key information to plan the vaccine distribution (here is the link to receive notifications for Alameda County residents).

Block on FAQ page to register for email  info on getting Covid 19 vaccine.

Kaiser is offering appoints to its member patients over the age of 65. They also are scheduling appointments for non-Kaiser patients but they must call Kaiser to get an ID first. That general number is 1-800-464-4000. You will need to ask to speak to a service rep to get a temporary ID.

If you are a Kaiser member or a non-member over 65 with a Kaiser ID, you can then try to schedule an appointment a few weeks in the future by calling 1-866-454-8855. However, there were no appointments available when called on January 15 and callers were asked to call back on Monday, January 18 (update: someone else who called said the auto-message says to call back “tomorrow” for appointments).

Other health providers are making plans to vaccinate older members. On January 14, John Muir Health wrote on their website that for members 75+, “Vaccinations will be done by appointment only. We will begin contacting John Muir Health patients in this age group the week of [January 18] to schedule a vaccine appointment. “

As the saying goes, your mileage may vary. But the rollout of vaccines to vulnerable populations is beginning now.

Author Profile

Howard Dyckoff has lived in Oakland for over 40 years and has been involved with many community groups, including Oakland Digital and Oakland Local, Block by Block, the East Oakland Boxing Association (EOBA), and CBE. A Brooklyn, New York, transplant, and an Aerospace Engineering graduate of NY Polytechnic, Howard also attended Laney College, where he wrote for the Laney Tower newspaper and was elected editor. Howard also attended the Starr King School at the Theological Union in Berkeley.

He has served as the Berkeley Free Clinic’s Outreach Coordinator, and also worked as an information technology professional at Chevron, Sybase, and Wells Fargo. He worked in both the 2010 and 2020 Census. Howard has been a regular contributor to Oakland Local and online publications such as TechTarget and Linux Gazette and currently writes for Oakland Voices. He currently does event photography and portraiture around the Bay Area.

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