Napa County's public health officials realized they had a problem when they assessed the disappointing turnout at last week's vaccination clinics at the Meritage Resort.
There was enough vaccine to give first shots to 11,700 people, including youths 16 and older who were eligible for the first time for protection against COVID-19.
Things went well that first day, with takers for nearly all 3,000 available doses, said Janet Upton, the county's public information officer.
Public turnout went downhill from there, even after walk-ins were encouraged, Upton said. "We had kind of a dismal Thursday and Friday," she said.
There were 3,000 doses available on Friday, but only 1,600 doses were administered, Upton said. For the week, 6,365 doses were given, but 5,335 doses went wanting, according to figures released Tuesday in a report to the Board of Supervisors.
This is a dramatic turnabout from the situation that had existed since a vaccine against COVID first became available in mid-December. Demand had far outstripped supply, leaving Napa residents scrambling to get vaccinated any way they could, even if that meant traveling significant distances out of the county.
The county is now brainstorming ways to make vaccinations easier for people to obtain, while launching a soft campaign to convince people who worry the vaccines aren't safe, Upton said.
As of this week, over 40% of eligible county residents had been fully immunized, but the goal is 75% to 80% to achieve local herd immunity, officials said. More than half of the county's eligible population, which includes all residents 16 years and older, had received the first shot.
In a report Tuesday afternoon that illustrated the vulnerability of unvaccinated adults, the county said there were two new COVID-related deaths, a woman over 65 and a man under 65, bringing the county's death toll to 80 since 13 months ago.
Dr. Karen Relucio, the county's public health officer, reported to supervisors Tuesday that the county and its partners are planning evening and weekend clinics so people don't have to take off from work to get their vaccinations.
"We think we probably saturated members of our community who can get away on the weekdays from 9 to 4," Upton said.
More mobile clinics are planned for where people live and work, including some far-flung areas such as Lake Berryessa and Pope Valley where vaccination rates are low, Upton said.
The county will recommend that vaccine supplies be distributed more widely, including through pharmacies, outpatient clinics, and urgent care facilities, Relucio reported to supervisors.
Many people are holding back due to religious or political beliefs or concerns about negative health impacts as reported on non-mainstream media.
Hoping to convince these hesitant populations, the county is planning a soft public relations campaign on social media in which esteemed members of the community, including teachers and coaches and public safety officials endorse vaccinations as contributing to the overall public good.
"We hope to create a little buzz," Upton said. "The message is more powerful if it comes from a friend or neighbor or family member."
OLE Health has already implemented a comprehensive “get vaccinated” campaign that has included “vaccine mythbuster” radio spots, print ads, a 30-minute mythbuster show on Facebook & Napa Valley TV running this month and next month in Spanish, along with an entire social media campaign, the health center reported.
The county plans to recruit some esteemed community members for a video promoting vaccinations, Upton said.
The county has created a digital frame that people can put around their Facebook photos. It's a virtual version of an "I voted" sticker, she said.
"Vaccinate Napa Valley," the frame says. "We can do this." It's available in English and Spanish.
To sign up for vaccinations through county channels for upcoming events, go to MyTurn at https://myturn.ca.gov/ Those without access to email can call the California COVID-19 Hotline at 1-833-422-4255 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends.
Residents who want to be tested for COVID at the free county-sponsored site should go to countyofnapa.org/test for more information.
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