Merced County struggling with low supply, high demand for COVID-19 vaccine

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- High demand with low supply.

That's what Dr. Rebecca Nanyonjo-Kemp says Merced County's health department is up against in the first phase of COVID-19 vaccines.

"When you take a look at our allocations to the north and south of us, Merced County does seem to have a lower allocation," says the director of Merced County's health department.

The department has received 6,025 vaccines for a county population of about 278,000.

While 85% of the vaccines have been administered, all vaccines have been already been accounted for in phase 1 - limited to healthcare workers and residents of skilled nursing facilities.

"A lot of our allocation is based on the availability we have of clinicians to be able to distribute and administer the vaccines," says Nanyonjo-Kemp.

Merced County is designated as a Health Provider Shortage area, which subsequently means a lower number of vaccines provided by the state.
Health officials say there are not enough vaccines to go around for those eligible.

"We cannot distribute what we do not have," she says.

On Thursday, Merced County's health department was able to secure an additional 2,200 doses. But Nanyonjo-Kemp says the state will need to step up the allocation for Merced County in order to meet the needs of the large number of essential workers in the next vaccine phase.

"We are preempting that as much as possible to make sure that we don't run low when we get to that phase. If we are relying on the allocation that we have received thus far, we anticipate that it's going to be a problem."

As other neighboring counties, like Fresno, continue on to vaccinate parts of the general population, Nanyonjo-Kemp is asking for patience.

"We just ask the community - even beg the community - to bear with us," she says.
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