• Kevin Hessel

Marin wants teachers vaccinated by spring break, all adults by July

Residents ages 16-64 with medical conditions will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine beginning March 15 under the newly unified statewide vaccination protocol, while Marin officials said they hope to vaccinate all school workers by spring break and all adults by the end of June.


Dr. Matt Willis, Marin’s public-health officer, announced the targets March 1 and 2 during teleconference updates with Marin educators and the county Board of Supervisors, respectively. With the one-year anniversary of the pandemic approaching on March 11, he also warned against complacency as testing in Marin has dropped, new variants are taking hold and the urge to travel and gather, including for spring break and Easter by those vaccinated and not, still poses risks.


That warning came just days before California announced outdoor sports stadiums — including those for the San Francisco Giants and Oakland A’s — and live performances will be allowed to reopen in California at reduced capacity beginning April 1, while the U.S. Centers for Disease Control says people who are fully vaccinated may now gather indoors without face coverings or physical distancing.


Currently, those 65 and older and high-risk essential workers — those in education, child care, food service, agriculture and emergency services — are eligible to receive the vaccine under phase 1B, tier 1, in addition to first responders, health-care workers and those in congregate senior-living facilities who all became eligible earlier in phase 1A.


To date, some 12.1 percent of Marin residents, or more than 31,500, are fully vaccinated with both doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. Some 82 percent of those 75 and older have received at least one dose, leaving only about 4,000 residents in that age group unvaccinated. Some 69 percent of those 65 and older have received at least one shot.


Under a system operated by Blue Shield of California, the state took greater control of the distribution model effective March 1 after “a lot of confusion across the state (with) different counties moving at different paces for different populations,” Willis told county supervisors.


That included Marin, which has the oldest average population in the state. As the county restricted eligibility to focus on those 75 and older, adjacent counties opened up vaccines to those 65 and up, which frustrated many Marin seniors, many of whom crossed into other counties to seek doses elsewhere.


As part of the unified state program, California’s My Turn vaccine notification and booking system, at myturn.ca.gov, is also becoming the centralized site for all residents. Willis said the county will be moving away from the county’s notification system and encourages those who have already registered locally to re-register at the state site.


When California moves into phase 1B, tier 2 on March 15, adults “deemed to be at the very highest risk for morbidity and mortality from COVID-19 as a direct result of one or more severe health conditions” will be eligible for the vaccine. Under state guidelines released Feb. 12, those conditions include:

  • Cancer, with a debilitated or immunocompromised state.

  • Chronic kidney disease, stage 4 or higher.

  • Chronic pulmonary disease with oxygen dependence.

  • Down syndrome.

  • Weakened immune system from organ transplant.

  • Pregnancy.

  • Sickle-cell disease.

  • Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease or cardiomyopathies but excluding hypertension.

  • Severe obesity, with a body-mass index of 40 or greater.

  • Type 2 diabetes with hemoglobin levels greater than 7.5 percent.

  • Likeliness of developing severe life-threatening illness or death from a COVID-19 infection.

  • Likeliness that infection would limit the ability to receive ongoing care or services vital to well-being and survival.

  • Likeliness that adequate and timely care would be particularly challenging as a result of a disability.

Willis said the following group will likely include all those 50-64, regardless of medical condition, though the county is awaiting further clarification from the state.


Initially, phase 1B’s second tier was to include those 65-74, a group moved to tier 1, as well as moderate-risk essential workers in transportation and logistics and critical manufacturing, and those in congregate settings including prisons, jails and homeless shelters. It’s not yet clear when the latter groups will become eligible.


In the meantime, officials are expecting to step up vaccination rates with increased supplies of the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna shots and the rollout of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson, or Janssen, vaccine.


The first of Marin’s “Saturday super-pods” for educators were set to take place March 6 and 13, providing first doses to 2,000 school workers each day. Second doses are planned for similar events March 27 and April 3, just ahead of the April 5-9 spring break.


Willis said the county will use its allocations of the Janssen vaccine for its four mobile teams, which reflects state guidelines, as the single dose can fully inoculate those in at-risk communities while eliminating the risk that vulnerable residents visiting such mobile units may skip the second dose required of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines three to four weeks later.


“We are in a race right now against the variants,” he said, referring to the several mutations that are more contagious and more resistant to antibodies. “The more people we can get vaccinated, the better off we’ll be as a community. … No matter what we do, we will always have some fraction of people who do not come back for that second dose, so that’s an advantage of that one dose.”


While the Janssen vaccine was found to be 85-percent effective in preventing severe and critical illness and 66-percent effective in preventing symptomatic illness versus the 94- to 95-percent effectiveness of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, experts said those direct comparisons are misleading and warn against judging the Janssen jab as less effective.


Trials for the Janssen vaccine included some of the variants, while the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines did not — making them all effectively equivalent in warding off the disease and its variants under current transmission conditions.


The Janssen vaccine was also 100-percent effective in trials in preventing hospitalization and death from COVID-19.


If manufacturers meet supply expectations, which would provide more than 150 million doses in the U.S. in March and April, experts suggest bottlenecks in distribution and vaccine hesitancy by residents may be the only obstacles to reaching 70-percent adult inoculation nationwide — a crucial first goal toward herd immunity — by the end of April.


Last week, President Joe Biden announced there will be enough doses for all Americans by the end of May, two months earlier than previously expected. Willis said he hopes to have all Marin adults fully inoculated by the end of June, with older teens following behind. Only the Pfizer vaccine is approved for those 16-17, while Pfizer and Moderna are in trials with children 12-15, with results expected in the summer. Vaccines for those 11 and younger aren’t expected until early next year.


With recognition of increasing vaccine rates, California on March 5 announced that some larger-scale outdoor attractions may host fans and live performances, including amusement and sports parks.


For sporting events, counties in the purple tier — the most restrictive in California’s four-tier pandemic-recovery blueprint — outdoor sports with fans can resume at a maximum capacity of 100 people who reside in the region, with reservations required and no concession sales. Red-tier capacity will open to all in-state fans at 20 percent with primarily in-seat concessions, and capacity rising to 33 percent in the orange tier and 67 percent in the yellow tier.


The Giants and A’s have already announced they plan to host fans for their season home-openers on April 9 and April 1, respectively.


Amusement parks will remain closed in the purple tier and may open to in-state residents only at 15-percent capacity in the red tier, rising to 25 percent in the orange tier and 35 percent in the yellow tier. No indoor dining will be allowed, and there will be restrictions on indoor rides.


While Solano County, home to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, remains in the purple tier, Santa Clara County is in the red tier and hosts California’s Great America.


On March 8, the CDC announced guidelines that those who have been fully vaccinated may gather inside their homes with others who are fully vaccinated, as well as with unvaccinated but low-risk people from one other household.


Fully vaccinated people also do not need to quarantine or be tested for COVID-19 if they’re exposed, unless they’re showing symptoms during 14-day self-monitoring. However, vaccinated people should still wear face coverings and physically distance in all public settings and avoid gatherings.


Marin had not yet adopted the new CDC guidelines as of The Ark’s press deadline March 8, but Willis last week warned against complacency, noting both the increasing prevalence of mutations and a sharp decrease in testing for the disease.


He also warned against travel until health officials receive formal recommendations from the CDC, saying that while “we know the vaccine reduces your risk of serious illness and death, it may still allow people who are post vaccination to be as infectious to others.”


“The travel restrictions that have been in place remain in place,” he said. “It is not safe to travel right now, it is against public-health advice to travel outside of the region, to do airline travel.”



vaccination in marin


Marin remains in red tier-2 restrictions for substantial transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, under the state’s four-tier blueprint for reopening the economy.


Distribution phase: Phase 1B, tier 1 — Those 65 and older and high-risk essential workers who live or work in Marin County. For details, visit coronavirus.marinhhs.org/vaccine/distribution.


Sign up: Visit the state’s centralized notification and booking website is at myturn.ca.gov.


Marin Center and Larkspur ferry terminal mass-vaccination site: New appointments are opened Friday afternoons at coronavirus.marinhhs.org/vaccine/status.


Kaiser Permanente: Appointments are available for members at arkn.ws/kaiser_covid and for nonmembers at arkn.ws/nokaiser_covid, or by calling 866-454-8855.


MarinHealth: Patients will be notified when a vaccine and appointment is available.


Sutter Health: Book online at sutterhealth.org/covid-vaccine or call 844-987-6115.


Costco Novato: Book online via arkn.ws/costco_covid.


CVS/pharmacy: Only available in San Anselmo. Book online at arkn.ws/cvs_covid.


Rite Aid: The closest sites are at Corte Madera Town Center and in Mill Valley. Book online at arkn.ws/riteaid_covid.


Safeway: The closest sites are in Strawberry and Mill Valley. Check the status and book online at coronavirus.marinhhs.org/vaccine/status.


Walgreens: The closest site is in Mill Valley. Book online at arkn.ws/walgreens_covid.


No internet: Marin residents without internet service who have been unable to book a vaccine appointment online may call 833-641-1988, Marin’s live-assistance hotline, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays. The call line is for those who have limited or no internet access and are 65 and older, have disabilities, need home care or personal assistance, require language interpretation or need help arranging transportation. A state-run hotline is also available at 833-422-4255.


Getting there: Rides to and from appointments are free on Marin Transit and Golden Gate Transit. Show the driver evidence of a same-day appointment.


Kevin Hessel is The Ark’s executive editor. Reach him at 415-435-2652, on Twitter at @thearknewspaper and on Facebook at fb.me/thearknewspaper.




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