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COVID-19 vaccines make it to essential workers

Humboldt County has begun vaccine distribution in order to combat the spread of COVID-19. Phase 1A of Humboldt’s Public Health distribution plan is currently being carried out in three tiers.

Tier 1 focuses on healthcare workers, long care term residents, dentists and private health practitioners. Phase 1B is expected to start in February and March and will be focused on long-term care residents 75 and older. 

Workers and residents in group homes from Butler Valley, a non-profit located in Eureka focused on programs and services for adults with intellectual disabilities, are among the first. In an interview David Atchison, Case Coordinator of Butler Valley, talked about receiving the vaccine.

“It was quick and easy. I gave a list of our staff the night before our vaccination date. They gave us a questionnaire to fill out and took me to a table in order to get the shot,” Atchison said.

Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine is the one being used in the distribution. The vaccination site is confidential.

“There was 15 minutes after getting the vaccine for observations afterwards to check for any effects so you don’t go into shock on the highway heading home,” Atchison recalled.

This came around the same time the county put a pause on distributing the Moderna vaccine that they had in their supply in the wake of those who received it in San Diego County experiencing anaphylaxis shock.

Desi, a resident of Butler Valley who only wishes to go by their first name, also received the vaccine, was somewhat nervous. 

“For me, right now, it was a lot of anxiety because there were a lot of people there,” Desi said. “My arm was sore, but nothing else. I know each person is different.”

Before the vaccine rollout, it’s been a tumultuous time in Humboldt with COVID-19 cases rising in the past nine months. Since the first reported case in Humboldt back in Feb. 20, 2020, there have been a total of 2,494 positive cases, 2,011 of which have recovered. There have been 86 hospitalizations and 25 deaths.

Tina Wood, nurse manager of critical care services, holds a vile containing a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, on Tuesday,
December 15, 2020. | Photo courtesy of Humboldt Public Health

During this time, the pandemic has made significant changes to Atchison’s day to day life.

“A lot of my job involves being on site and you cannot really do that from home,” Atchison said. “Social aspects being significantly reduced and almost a year dealing with a coronavirus and not seeing a change has been difficult. We deal with the constant changes. One week you can do this, one week you can’t.”

Desi had taken up hobbies in the pandemic with the loss of the said social aspects.

“I sketch a lot. I’m an artist and do sketch art of ice cream, strawberries, cows and chicken,” Desi said. “I also learned how to make lanyards and make masks because I have a sewing machine.”

The vaccination rollout in the state as a whole has not been the best compared to other states. Currently, as of publication of this article, California ranks No. 49 in vaccination rates according to Bloomberg with only 2.3 million people vaccinated. 

The exact number of those vaccinations is currently not available in the county.

“That’s largely due to the fact that some doses are delivered directly to approved vaccinators, and the state is still developing a tracking tool to identify how many doses are with which providers,” said Meriah Miracle, Public Information Officer for Humboldt County.

Public Health has received 15,000 of the first and second doses of the vaccine at this time of writing this article.

The slow rollout has been due to a shortage of supply in the state to which Governor Gavin Newsom stated it would take “until June” to have every senior in California vaccinated.

Currently, the stay-at-home order has been lifted allowing for a return to outdoor dining.

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