Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Monday that the San Joaquin Valley will get a major boost to its COVID-19 vaccine allocation. That’s due in part to the region’s food and ag workers, who now are also receiving some priority access to the vaccine.
Valley counties will now be receiving thousands more doses each week, amounting to an average increase of 58%, thanks to a change in how the state is distributing vaccines.
In earlier weeks, each county’s share was calculated based on its relative population of seniors and healthcare workers. For weeks in the Valley, a region that has been chronically underserved by doctors and other medical providers, health leaders and elected officials have been demanding a higher supply from the governor, arguing the Valley was receiving fewer doses per capita than other regions of the state.
Beginning this week, however, the allocation also takes into account each county’s essential workers in Phase 1B, which includes food and ag workers. The revised calculation brings a windfall to the Valley, which contains the three top-producing agricultural counties in the country.
Newsom announced the changes in Arvin, where the state and county are working together to convert a COVID-19 testing site into a vaccine clinic. Standing alongside Mayor Olivia Trujillo, Bakersfield Mayor Karen Goh and Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez, Newsom announced the Arvin site would be one of 11 such clinics in the Valley, brought online in rural areas as part of an effort to make vaccines more accessible to vulnerable communities including farm workers.
“These are the folks that never took a day off, these are the folks that never complained, these are folks that wake up every single day and were there for the rest of us so we can go about our lives,” Newsom said.
The governor also announced a one-time boost to the Valley’s vaccine supply, to be delivered later this week. “We are redirecting 34,000 doses that one of our large pharmacies had that were not being administered as efficiently and effectively as I’d like, and we decided to bring those 34,000 doses here to the Central Valley,” he said. He did not name the pharmacy the doses had been redirected from, nor how the doses would be distributed among Valley counties.
In a statement, a Kern County Public Health Services spokesperson said that the county is thrilled to be receiving a boost. “We were honored that Governor Newsom chose our new vaccination site in Arvin to announce a new infusion of vaccine into the Central Valley,” the statement reads. “We are appreciative of this opportunity to get more vaccine into the residents of Kern County, including our ag workers and educators.”
“Whenever we have an increase in doses, that is good for our community,” said Fresno County Community Health Division Manager Joe Prado during a media call on Tuesday. “And we have the partners to actually deliver on those doses. So I think it was definitely welcome and it was very positive to hear that news come from the governor.”
Beginning this week, the state is now requiring all counties to set aside as much as 30% of their vaccine supply for those who qualify for Phase 1B of the state’s vaccination plan, including not just food and ag workers but also educators and first responders.