Tulare County hits pause button on first dose vaccination clinics

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Around 20,000 Tulare County residents have received their first doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, and local health officials say the time for their second shot is now, or is coming up soon.

"So we must be diligent to remember this is a two-dose series," Tulare County HHSA's Carrie Monteiro said. "And here in Tulare County, to have the maximum efficacy of 90% that these vaccines have seen in clinical trials, we're going to follow through on that second dose."

At a board of supervisors meeting on Tuesday, Tulare County's top health official made it clear that there is still not enough vaccine supply to guarantee second doses and administer first doses at the same time.

So for this week and next, the county is only holding second dose clinics at sites such as the International Agri-Center.

The decision, county officials say, was made to maintain the public's trust in the vaccination process, and also ensure the vaccine's effectiveness.

"We're erring on the side of caution with what we know now and that is the data available from a two-dose vaccination series as seen in the rounds of clinical trials of both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccine," Monteiro explained.

But the decision appears to differ from state guidance, which says providers shouldn't hold first doses as second doses.

It's a topic that was also brought up at a White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing on Monday.

"We believe that some healthcare providers are regularly holding back doses that are intended as first doses, and instead keeping them in reserve for second doses for patients," COVID-19 Response Team Advisor Andy Slavitt said. "We want to be clear that we understand why healthcare providers have done that, but that it does not need to happen and should not happen."

Tulare County officials plan to continue with their current approach until they start getting guaranteed second dose shipments from the state or supply increases.

They know that will eventually happen as more vaccines are authorized for use.

"Supply will be greater once we have more manufacturers and more vaccines come into the market, and we're hopeful that that is going to be coming available, through the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and the AstraZeneca vaccine in the coming weeks," Monteiro said.

On Tuesday afternoon, Tulare County Public Health provided some more context to their situation.

Their statement is below.

During initial phases of the vaccine rollout, the California Department of Public health encouraged counties to provide as much vaccine to our healthcare partners, including some second doses, as all counties were ensured they would be made whole with continued vaccine allotments and CDPH wanted vaccine rolled out to as many individuals as possible. But as the weeks progressed the matching of the second dose allotments were not consistent and numbers of doses were lower than anticipated. Under the directive of distributing as much vaccine as possible, many counties organized large vaccination clinics and the second doses for those are due in the next couple weeks.

Tulare County is now making sure we have enough vaccine on hand in the next couple weeks to meet the timeframe of the second doses for those in need of a second dose to complete the two-dose series.

In Tulare County, if we find that our allocation for second doses becomes more reliable and the allocation amounts match those received for first doses, we will be able to plan more appropriately. Tulare County Public Health wants to ensure if someone receives a first dose of COVID vaccine, we will be providing the second dose within the 21 or 28 day interval as has been advised through the CDC.
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