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Contra Costa Is Offering Vaccines No Matter Where You Live

Come one, come all.

Contra Costa County is flush with COVID-19 vaccines, so much so that its public health clinics are now offering them to anyone 16 and older, regardless of where they live or work.

What previously had been reserved for county residents and workers is now up for grabs for people from other parts of the Bay Area, the state, or really anywhere in the world, health officials announced Monday.

“I think it’s important to realize that we’re not safe until everybody’s safe, and the virus doesn’t respect borders,” said Dr. Chris Farnitano, the county’s health officer. “And so, if there’s virus raging in surrounding counties, that’s going to put our residents at risk.”

The move comes at a turning point in the county’s vaccine rollout, when “supply finally outstripped demand in the last few weeks,” Farnitano said. At its peak, in mid-April, the county was administering about 14,000 doses a day, and it’s now down to fewer than 12,000, he said, resulting in a growing number of unfilled appointments at county vaccine sites.

“We’re actually starting to ask for fewer doses from the feds and the state … to adjust for that decreased demand, but make sure we’re still being good stewards of all these vaccine doses, and not letting open vials go unused,” he said.

More than 650,000 people — 70% of those ages 16 and over — have been at least partially vaccinated, and over 50% have been fully vaccinated, according to county health data.

Reaching the remaining population, Farnitano noted, will be a big challenge.

More rural areas in the far eastern stretches of the county — including places like Bethel Island and Oakley — have among the lowest vaccination rates, he said. Rates have also lagged among residents in their 20s, he added, a cohort that is typically harder to convince to seek medical care. And, he said, lower vaccination rates among the county’s Latino and Black populations remain, although the gap between those groups and the overall population seems to be narrowing.

“Really, it’s moving from kind of a wholesale approach to a retail approach,” Farnitano said. “And really working with trusted partners, working to address different barriers and different concerns.”

Anyone can now schedule a vaccine appointment online or by calling 833-829-2626. They can also visit any county walk-in clinic without an appointment.

— Matthew Green

Copyright 2021 KQED