More vaccines are headed to California’s vast Central Valley, an agricultural region whose workers and residents have been hard hit by coronavirus, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday.
The multi-county region, which includes the cities of Fresno and Bakersfield, will get significantly more vaccines this week dedicated to farmworkers. The shifting allocation comes as California moves to a new centralized system for distributing vaccines aimed at ensuring the most vulnerable people have access.
The state will also take 34,000 doses from a pharmacy that wasn’t using them quickly enough and distributing them to care providers in the Central Valley, Newsom said.
The governor has made equitable access to the coronavirus a priority and the change in allocation formula comes as the state moves to inoculate others beyond health care employees in essential jobs, including food and farm workers and teachers.
Eleven mobile clinics will be set up to ensure vaccines get to people who don’t have transportation to a mass vaccination site or can’t navigate the sign-up portal, including in the small city of Arvin, southeast of Bakersfield, where Newsom spoke.
“These are the folks that never took a day off, these are the folks that never complained, these are the folks that wake up every single day and (are) there for the rest of us so we can go about our lives,” Newsom said. “It’s not just Californians who benefit, it’s the folks all across this country and around the world.”
It wasn’t immediately clear what the state’s decision to send more doses to the valley will mean for other regions. California on Sunday began transitioning to a distribution system run by insurance giant Blue Shield, starting in the Central Valley. All vaccine providers will now have to use a state website called My Turn to schedule vaccination appointments. Newsom acknowledged that “invariably there will be bumps along the road.”
Arvin Mayor Olivia Trujillo appeared to get emotional as she talked about what it will mean for farmworkers to get vaccines in their home community.
“The fear is going to be taken away (for) them,” she said.
Statewide, about 70% of all vaccine doses are now going to people age 65 and older, while the remaining 30% are split among educators, emergency service workers and farm and food processing workers, Newsom said.
Newsom, a Democrat who is facing the threat of a recall election, spoke forcefully about his commitment to ensuring people in the region get resources needed to fight the virus. Kern and Fresno counties, which have a combined population of nearly 2 million, have higher positivity test rates than that of the state, at 10.5% and nearly 9% respectively, compared with 3.3% in the state overall.
Local officials had called on Newsom to visit, including Bakersfield Mayor Karen Goh, a Republican who joined him in Arvin. Newsom described himself as “not some guy from San Francisco who doesn’t give a damn about the Valley.”
“We don’t have to agree on everything but damnit, I care about ... your kids, your family, your community.”
Goh thanked Newsom for visiting and noted that residents there have higher rates of health problems that can exacerbate coronavirus treatment, such as asthma and diabetes.