Inyo’s first mass vaccination event a big ‘shot in the arm’

By: 
Jon Klusmire
Register Correspondent

arm.
Shots in more than 1,000 arms, to be specific, which were delivered during a two-day COVID-19 mass vaccination event at the Eastern Sierra Tri-County Fairgrounds in Bishop.
The success of the event could also give Inyo County’s ongoing vaccination efforts a literal “shot in the arm” by helping convince the state to increase the number of vaccine doses it allocates to Inyo County in the future.
On Saturday, a cold Sierra wind did not deter the steady flow of Inyo County residents arriving at the fairgrounds to get “the jab.”
They lined up with masks in place and at the appropriate social distance in front of the fairground ticket window to check in, confirm their appointment and that they were a county resident who was 65 or older or an essential worker.
They were then guided into the Home Economics Building and one of eight vaccination stations staffed by local medical professionals to get a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. After getting the shot, they waited for about 15 minutes in the building, just in case there was a negative or allergic reaction to the vaccine.
On Sunday, warmer weather, no wind and sunny skies greeted the vaccine seekers as they went through the same smooth-running process. On both days, that process ended with a shot in the arm and an appointment in March for a second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at another mass vaccination event.
“People are in a good mood,” observed Northern Inyo Hospital District physician Dr. Stacey Brown as he stood outside the Home Economics Building during brief press conference. Although the Inyo County Health Department, NIHD, and Vons Pharmacy have been holding small vaccination clinics for quite some time, the large-scale event was a highly visible sign that the vaccination effort was making progress.
The state has only provided Inyo County about 400 vaccine doses a week, but on Sunday, Feb. 13, it notified the county health department that it would send about 1,200 doses for the mass vaccination event.
“The state has been tightfisted” when it comes to distributing vaccine, Brown said. But the county and its health care partners “did our due diligence” over the past two weeks and “showed we can store, handle and deliver the Pfizer vaccine.” Most important, “we showed we could get it into arms.”
That helped convince the state to “give us a box” with the roughly 1,200 doses for the mass vaccination event. The success of the vaccination event should, once again, prove to the state that the county can manage its vaccination allocation and might lead to the state “giving us some more vaccine” for the weekly allocation and future mass vaccination events, Brown said. “So this is big,” he said of the successful mass vaccination effort.
Brown praised how the event came together. The county Health and Human Services Department and NIHD had been planning for such an event, but had less than a week to put those plans into action.
The Tri-County Fairgrounds quickly offered its site and buildings for use. Most of the medical staff for the event, including doctors, pharmacists and nurses came from NIHD, with EMTs from Symons Ambulance and local volunteer fire departments.
The county HHS department organized a big corps of volunteers and brought in staff from most of its departments to handle appointments, the check-in process, provide information and guide residents through the process, he noted.
“It is a great collaboration,” Brown said.
Besides the work of staff and volunteers, Brown credited a couple of other reasons the event was “efficient” and was able to move people through the process with relative ease. The planning effort involved getting some “tips and best practices” from Mono County Public Health, which has already held similar events, he noted. Setting appointments at 15 minute intervals kept the flow of residents steady throughout the day and avoided long waits.
The online registration process also helped, he said. This was the “maiden voyage” for using the state’s My Turn online registration and appointment system (www.myturn.ca.gov) and it worked well, he said. At the vaccine site, staff and volunteers could access the patient information and completed forms from the My Turn site via tablets and computers which makes the process quicker and simpler.
However, there were cases of people showing up who were not in the group eligible for the vaccine. Also, some did not bring their appointment confirmation, documentation about age, residency in Inyo County and confirmation they were essential workers, such as teachers, food service workers, etc.
The county Health Department, NIHD and Vons Pharmacy will continue to provide COVID-19 vaccinations for those 65 and older, health care workers and essential workers, so all of the available vaccines will be put to use. See www.inyocounty.us under the COVID-19 Response section for more information. To register for a vaccine, use the county website or www.myturn.ca.gov.

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