Orange County residents lineup in their cars at Soka University as they wait to be vaccinated. Katarina De Almeida/ Lariat
Since January, the California Department of Public Health oversees vaccine distribution throughout all counties and has been authorized to vaccinate education workers. Jeanne Harris Caldwell, the dean of Wellness, Social Services and Child Development Center at Saddleback, works with the South Orange County Community College District and Orange County Health officials to use the vaccine percentage carved out for workers within the higher education system.
“Right now, we are transitioning to a statewide allocation of our vaccines through the third party administrator, Blue Shield, so at this point on the ground, it varies,” said Sami Gallegos, press secretary of the COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force. “Some higher education in that pool of that 10% set aside is being determined on the county level basis.”
The California All Vaccines for K-12 School Staff and Childcare Workers, which states that the effort to accelerate vaccine access for education workers will qualify through the announcement by the governor. “A minimum of 10% of the state’s vaccine supply would be dedicated to education workers.” Guidelines at the state level are currently for K-12, although each county will determine the distribution to higher-level education workers based on their county’s tier level.
The phases of the network transition began on March 1 after President Joe Biden’s announcement and were predicted to be fully operational by the end of March. Orange County is listed under the second wave that will continue onboarding providers as of March 7. Blue Shield of California, the state’s network administrator, is working with providers throughout the state of California in efforts to administer each county according to the state-directed eligibility criteria.
“The state will make final allocation decisions, continuing to use the existing split which prioritizes 70 percent of doses for those 65+ and the other 30 percent in the educational and childcare, emergency services and food and agriculture sectors,” the California Department of Public Health states in an announcement on Feb. 26. “Included in that is the 10 percent set aside for educational and childcare workers.”
Public Health has a network of local health jurisdictions, hospitals, community clinics, pop-up or mobile and mega-sites through FEMA, located explicitly in Oakland or Los Angeles. Blue Shield is helping in the statewide effort to resolve some confusion for those eligible for the vaccine. MyTurn.ca.gov is a site for Californians to sign-up and receive notifications when the vaccine is available in their area and book an appointment.
Kathleen Burke, the chancellor of the SOCCCD, works with state officials to get up-to-date information for college professors and staff.
“While the campuses have already been approved as CalVAX sites (approved to vaccinate), we are still waiting to be designated a Point of Dispensing (POD) site for higher education in the County,” Burke said in an email.
Once these POD sites are selected and vaccinations are available for distribution, higher education professors and administrators will receive a notification about the appointment process through MyTurn.ca.gov.
“We continue to prioritize the health and safety of all District employees and appreciate everyone’s patience as we navigate through this difficult time together,” Burke said.
Jeanne Harris-Caldwell, the dean of Wellness, Social Services and Child Development Center with Saddleback, confirms that Irvine Valley College and Saddleback applied as a CalVAX site back in December 2020, which allows the campus to distribute vaccinations. Recently, an addition to Phase 1B opens availability to individuals, age 16 to 64, who are at a higher risk due to significant medical conditions, disabilities, illness, living spaces or work environments.
“Saddleback and Irvine Valley are just now being set up as a POD site for institutes of higher education for those members in our county,” she said. “So, it wouldn’t just be for Saddleback and IVC employees, but it would be for any institute for higher ed employees. We are really trying to bridge the equity gap that has been created with institutes of higher ed not being included in that initial carve-out for K-12.”
Harris-Caldwell and the Saddleback administration have been working with the district and O.C. Healthcare Agency to get the POD site started on campus. Either a drive-through or indoor site will be implemented depending on the distribution of vaccinations.
“If we are only getting 150 or 200 vaccines a week, then obviously an indoor site would be easier to maintain,” she said. “If we can get as many as 1,000 vaccines a week, we do a lot greater good for all and do it in a drive-through site. But we are prepared. We have the proper storage and the proper refrigerators.”
In early January, IVC received 200 doses of the Moderna vaccine and distributed them to Phase 1A education workers. Saddleback announced in an email to the staff on Mar. 25 that they will be distributing vaccines from April 1 to April 2 for SOCCCD employees over the age of 65 or if they have been working on-site for more than three days a week. As long as they have not received their first dose, they can request an appointment via email.
We are providing Moderna vaccines for staff and faculty of SOCCCD,” Harris-Caldwell said. “We were allotted 200 doses for this week.”
Saddleback encourages the staff to book an appointment immediately as there is a limited dosage supply, and the policy is first-come, first-served by appointment.