First Covid Vaccines Arrive in Mono

By: 
Wendilyn Grasseschi
Times Reporter

A limited number of the Covid-19 vaccines arrived in Mono County last week, but it will be at least another month before those who got the vaccine will have any immunity to the virus – and much longer before most residents can get the two doses of the vaccine they will need for immunity.

That said, the arrival of the vaccine was a cause for much celebration this week, as nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists and other frontline workers at Mammoth Hospital happily lined up to get the first of 100 doses of the so-called Moderna vaccine. Another 360 doses of the so-called Pfizer vaccine also available to Mono County as of this week, county health officials said this week.

More vaccine doses are expected to arrive in the coming weeks, but Mono County Public Health Director Bryan Wheeler said he did not yet have the schedule or numbers of vaccines available. He did say that both companies are committed to making sure the second round of the vaccines needed for immunity will be available in time for the second shots, which need to be administered three weeks after the first shot.

Until then, he said, the focus is on getting what is called the “Phase 1A” group of locals vaccinated; healthcare workers, including people like dentists, EMS responders and other first responders such as fire fighters, and more.

To that end, the county health department is finishing compiling lists of everyone who is within that category and wishes to be vaccinated, he said.

“As more vaccine is allocated to Mono County, we will expand vaccination to other essential personnel and the community, focusing initially on higher risk people.”

He said he is already being emailed multiple times a day with people asking where they fall on the vaccine priority list, but he said until the state releases further guidance on this, it is too soon to confirm who exactly will be in the next phase of vaccine distribution, and, he cautioned there is still uncertainty at the national level regarding the vaccine availability, which has already changed several times since the state was first promised vaccine doses, making planning ahead for little Mono County even more difficult.

All this said, it is critical to remember that this first round of the vaccine will not make an impact on the current spread of the virus for many more weeks and possibly into the end of January, healthcare officials said again this week. That is due to several reasons.

One, there is a time lag in achieving immunity for those who take the vaccine between the first and second dose of the vaccine. The second dose comes three weeks behind the first dose and in-between doses, the person is still not immune and could still transmit the virus, if they get it. Then, there is another time lag after the second dose of about a week to ten days. That puts immunity for those that get the very first doses of the vaccine, should it be this week or next, far into January.

Two, the virus is spreading exponentially Mono County, which is adding about 100 cases a week as of press time this week (and has been doing so for several weeks). This trend will not end, or even slow down, unless residents take extremely strong measures on their own for several more months to protect themselves and others, local health officials said. This means vaccines, even when they are widely available to enough people to begin to gain some kind of ‘herd immunity,’ (as late as fall, 2021 for Mono County, according to local health officials) will be playing ‘catchup’ to the virus, which will have spread much farther through the population by then.

“Our local and state health situation is dire - cases have been increasing at an exponential rate in Mono County, and ICU’s in California and Nevada are struggling under the strain,” said Dr. Tom Boo, Mono County Health Officer.

Third, there is not enough vaccine for more than a few hundred of the county’s most critical essential workers, such as healthcare workers and first responders ready in this first distribution (we are waiting for more details on this process).

All of this means everyone, the people who get the vaccine and the rest of the county will once again have to buckle down and prepare for a long, hard slog of mask-wearing and distancing.

IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THE LOCAL VACCINE SITUATION
• To inform Mono County residents on the Covid-19 vaccination plan and when they can expect to receive their free vaccination, the Mono County Public Health Department has published a Frequently Asked Questions document on the Health Department website. Go to: https://monohealth.com/public- health/page/immunization-program

IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THE STAY AT HOME ORDER
• Additional information regarding the Regional Stay Home Order is available online: https://covid19.ca.gov/stay-home-except-for-essential-needs/#regional
Or visit the Mono County COVID-19 Portal in English: MonoHealth.com/Coronavirus
Or in Spanish: https://monohealth.com/coronavirus-es

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