With winter approaching, Yakima County health officials are studying ways to provide COVID-19 vaccinations that don’t involve outdoor clinics.
Those could include indoor locations and drive-thru options “to keep our staff and patients warm,” said Nathan Johnson, emergency response coordinator for the Yakima Health District, during a special health board meeting Monday.
Unlike slow-starting and sporadic public vaccination efforts in the winter of 2020-21, COVID-19 vaccines are widely available, the Pfizer vaccine is an option for anyone 5 years and older and adults who qualify can receive boosters. Youths younger than 18 need a parent or guardian’s consent to get the vaccine.
As a result, the health district’s mobile vaccine clinics remain crucial, officials said. Johnson provided a vaccine update during the nearly two-hour meeting Monday night. Video is available on the Yakima Health District Facebook page.
“We are moving into winter and we anticipate the potential for increased numbers or concerns. The other reality is we don’t know if we’re finished yet with boosters,” said health district executive director Andre Fresco.
Meeting discussion also included the importance of ensuring that as many people have access to the vaccine as possible and the county provides it in the most fiscally responsible ways.
Health district administrators meet regularly with leadership at Columbia Safety, whom the health district is working with on the mobile clinics, to scrutinize overtime and administrative costs, Johnson said. FEMA is reimbursing their vaccine efforts through Dec. 31, Fresco noted. Officials don’t have confirmation beyond that.
“Our teams are operating very efficiently while also ensuring that we are being cost-sensitive,” Johnson said of the health district’s three mobile teams.
“Sometimes only two mobile teams work a day, sometimes three and sometimes one,” he said. Officials strive to keep the mobile teams nimble so they can move them to higher-demand locations or places with greater need, as necessary.
Efforts to be fiscally responsible also include monitoring how many vaccine doses the health district’s mobile sites are providing. “Right now they’re averaging daily anywhere between 60 and 120 doses a day, and it’s fairly consistent right in that range,” Johnson said.
Johnson corrected a statement he made early in the meeting, when he said mobile teams have administered a total of 16,212 vaccine doses throughout the community among 800 mobile clinics. He also mentioned since Nov. 7, mobile teams have administered about 117 pediatric doses.
“That’s actually 56,477 doses that are combined between the 800 or so mobile clinics as well as the Yakima State Fair Park drive-thru site,” Johnson said.
Johnson said vaccinations continue to stress health care providers.
“Not every health care provider in this county has a COVID vaccine; not every location is offering the vaccine five to seven days a week,” he added. “Some locations are only accepting their patients. Some of the smaller pharmacies are booked out for the next month or so.
“Being able to have these teams within our community is incredibly important to ensure that we are providing this high level of service to a community that has historically struggled with access to care.”