Vaccination appointments expand, local study offers Pfizer to children

Zoe Morgan/Town Crier
Los Altos High School English teacher Margaret Bennett, left, receives a COVID-19 vaccine at Levi’s Stadium last month.

In the week since Santa Clara County opened vaccination to everyone ages 16 and over, vaccination appointment volume surged to meet vigorous demand from newly eligible residents.

By Monday afternoon almost 60 percent of those eligible in the county had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. California as a whole crossed the halfway mark late last week, leaving 15 million potentially queuing up for a shot in the days to come.

The state has been receiving 2-3 million doses each week, with hundreds of thousands of those doses coming to Santa Clara County. With lines wrapping back and forth across the blacktop and wending through bag check like a sporting event, Levi’s Stadium, one of the county-run mass vaccination sites, sees a massive flow of visitors each day. It administered the most vaccines out of any site in the state April 13, according to the county’s department of health.

The Bay Area currently hosts the nation’s first trial of COVID vaccine in children ages 5 and under, with a Stanford Medicine-run study of the Pfizer vaccine that launched last week. Families interested in learning more about participation in the second and third phases of the trial, which begin recruiting in May, can fill in a survey indicating their interest. 

Teens age 16 and over have been queuing up with the adults to get a shot, but the state requires parental consent for teens under 18 – and according to the county’s public information office, teens 16 and 17 need a parent or legal guardian present with them to provide consent in person when they turn up for an appointment.

The advisory panel weighing use of Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention delayed making a decision last week, saying more information was needed about possible vaccination response in some people who experienced blood clots. The U.S. has paused use of the vaccine after six people reported suffering rare and dangerous blood clots one to two weeks after receiving the vaccine, and one of those people died. It is not yet known whether the vaccine caused the clotting response.

Influx of doses

Santa Clara County and regional health providers such as Stanford Medicine and El Camino Healthcare continue to release new banks of appointments throughout the day each day. Tens of thousands of appointments are being added each day, but they are snatched up as quickly as they appear. When the county opened vaccinations to everyone 16 and up who live or work in the county on April 13, it was counting on an influx of vaccine doses from the federal government that have indeed continued to arrive.

Securing a booking requires patience and know-how, as every health group and pharmacy uses a different system to show vaccine availability. The series of clicks and search strategies can start to feel like ZIP code whack-a-mole as people look for slots, but at the county’s press conference last week, health officers spoke with confidence about the consistent stream of new appointments, which should mean the process gets easier by the day.

Residents reporting back from regional vaccination sites described orderly lines that ranged from tolerable to surprisingly speedy, with a total time onsite of anywhere from 30 minutes to over two hours, depending on location and time of day. Everyone who receives a vaccination must wait for 15 minutes to watch for any allergic reaction.

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