PAJARO—A mass vaccination clinic in Pajaro aimed at North Monterey County residents struggling to find the vaccine will go on as planned Friday, thanks to quick work from Dignity Health-Dominican Hospital and organizer Pajaro Valley Prevention and Student Assistance (PVPSA).
PVPSA CEO Erica Padilla-Chavez says the health care provider had planned to administer 500 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine during the popup clinic. But after the FDA and CDC this morning recommended a pause of the one-dose Covid-19 vaccine, Dignity Health-Dominican Hospital shifted to the two-dose Pfizer vaccine for Friday’s distribution at Pajaro Middle School.
“Things are still moving along,” Padilla-Chavez said Tuesday afternoon.
That should come as good news for residents of the small towns in the northern reaches of Monterey County that have been confused as to where—and more specifically in what county—they can access the vaccine.
Padilla-Chavez says that a survey of Pajaro and Las Lomas residents conducted by the Promotoras de Salud, a community advocate group run by PVPSA, found that 65% of 500 respondents had not yet received their vaccine and were unclear of where to get it.
“It was very strong data for us and that’s the data that we used to propel and motivate our partners to step up and to help,” Padilla-Chavez said.
Dignity Health-Dominican Hospital was the first to sign on, Padilla-Chavez says, and VIDA (Virus Integrated Distribution of Aid) Monterey County also provided PVPSA with support. Padilla-Chavez also gave thanks to the Pajaro Valley Unified School District, which oversees three schools in Monterey County and refers students to the nonprofit for counseling, for allowing the mobile clinic to use the Pajaro Middle School site—one of the few large venues in the area.
“How quickly our partners said ‘yes, let’s make it happen, we’ll work with you,’ it just speaks to the understanding that the (Pajaro and Las Lomas) community is under-resourced in many ways,” Padilla-Chavez said. “It’s so great to be able to put something like this together in a matter of a day or two.”
Pajaro and Las Lomas residents can register for the vaccine clinic by calling 831-274-3414. The clinic is open to anyone 18 and older. No insurance or ID is required.
Though Monterey County struggled to vaccinate its residents when doses were being distributed in December, January and February, it has since picked up the pace at which it is getting shots into arms—thanks largely to an increase in the number of doses coming into the county, and because of recent vaccine clinics that have administered up to 8,000 doses on a given day.
As of Monday, about 48% of county residents 16 years and older had received at least one dose. That included at least 2,160 residents in the 95076 zip code, according to the county’s vaccine dashboard. But Pajaro and Las Lomas, which fall in that zip code, combined have about 6,500 residents, meaning there is still a good portion of those communities—as with thousands of others across the nation—that has yet to receive the vaccine.
Some North Monterey County residents received the vaccine through their employers or primary health care providers, Padilla-Chavez says, but others without those opportunities have struggled to beat the virtual rush hour on the half-dozen or so websites advertising vaccine appointments.
Padilla-Chavez says several North Monterey County residents surveyed by PVPSA did not know if they could simply cross the Monterey-Santa Cruz county line that connects Pajaro and Watsonville to receive the vaccine at the state-run site in downtown, or if they had to make the 19-mile trek to one of the mass vaccination clinics happening in Salinas over the last few weekends.
“There were some who were just confused,” she said. “They just didn’t know where to go.”
That confusion might subside over the next few days thanks to the state-run site myturn.ca.gov, which has been touted by local and state officials as the go-to website for where to find a vaccine appointment. On Tuesday morning, that site was funneling Pajaro and Las Lomas residents that were eligible for the vaccine to the downtown Watsonville site, and appointments for Thursday through Sunday there were plentiful as of 3pm.
But those appointments are expected to fill up quickly when eligibility expands to all Californians 16 and older on Thursday, says Santa Cruz County spokesman Jason Hoppin.
“It does seem easier to find a shot now,” Hoppin said. “Now, what happens on Thursday is probably a different question—that’s a pretty big expansion of the eligibility pool. What’s available now, may not be available then.”
Padilla-Chavez says that’s what makes clinics such as PVPSA’s valuable to those still struggling to find a shot—whether that be because of a lack of virtual literacy, a language barrier or confusion about where to go. If there is a need, she says, PVPSA would be open to conducting a second one.
“We all know that 500 shots is not going to fill the need for the entire community, but we’ve got to start somewhere for that community,” she said.