With the current surge threatening local hospitals ability to provide care, Tulare County officials continue recognize the obvious need of rolling out COVID-19 vaccines as quickly as possible.

During his report on the status of COVID-19 in the county at the Tulare County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, Tulare County Health and Human Services Director Tim Lutz reported the county is ramping up its efforts to vaccinate those in Phase 1A and Phase 1B as soon as possible.

Phase 1A includes various groups who provide some kind of health care. Lutz said three major vaccination locations are being established — Tulare's International Ag Center, College of the Sequoias in Visalia and Porterville College — are being established to finish vaccinating the remaining people in Phase 1A.

Then Tulare County will move onto Phase 1B in which those in who work in schools and child care, those in public safety, agriculture and food industry employees including farmworkers, and those over the age of 75 would be vaccinated.

But Lutz said a new federal directive that could be coming may complicate the effort. Lutz said the federal government announced on Tuesday it was also looking at moving all those ages 65 and older to the front of the line when it comes to vaccinations.

Regardless of what the guidelines are Tulare County still has a goal of administering 10,000 vaccines a week by the end of January. “I still think that's a realistic goal,” Lutz said.

But another problem with the vaccination rollout has been the slow rollout of vaccines to skilled nursing facilities in the program in which the federal government has partnered with CVS and Walgreens Pharmacies to deliver those vaccines. Lutz said at the current rate it would be until the end of February before all of the vaccines are administered to skilled nursing facilities in Tulare County.

Lutz reported on Tuesday Tulare County has received 18,275 vaccines and 5,388 people in the county have received vaccines. Some of those who have received vaccines have received both doses of the vaccine.

Lutz also reported good news as far as 2,000 Moderna vaccines that were put on hold because of a mechanical problem with their refrigeration. Lutz said those vaccines were apporoved to be administered.

The county is also continuing in its effort to keep residents as updated as possible when it comes to vaccines. The county's website covering all information concerning vaccines is https://covid19.tularecounty.ca.gov/covid-19-vaccine/

Tulare County residents can also fill out a form to receive updates on when they would be eligible for the vaccine here: https://arcg.is/0KKez4 It should be noted the link contains the numeral zero and not the capital O.

Lutz said on Monday or by today, those seeking information about vaccines will be able to call the county's general number for information on COVID-19, 211, and will be directed on how to receive information on vaccines. Lutz said United Way would also be providing a number for seniors to call to receive information about vaccines.

Tulare County also has an email address for individuals and services clubs who are interested in administering vaccines or helping out with the vaccination effort. The email address is TCvaccinevolunteer@tularecounty.ca.gov

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