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Vaccination process moves quickly, smoothly at Frogtown

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Editor Marc Lutz receives the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine at the Frogtown clinic.

Hard-to-get appointments.

Six-hour waits.

Clinics running out of vaccines.

Second doses not being available.

These are all examples of problems that have been plaguing the statewide vaccination process since rollout began. On April 7, I was fortunate to witness first-hand how that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore—at least not in Calaveras County.

Being in the 50-plus category, I had to wait patiently until the beginning of April when for it to be my turn to receive the vaccine. When it was finally available, I checked with the MyTurn state website. Since my health plan is through Kaiser and I live in San Joaquin County, I decided to see what was available there.

The Stockton Kaiser Permanente office is the closest to me, so I logged into the appointment portal and checked available times. The earliest was April 20 in Stockton. That felt too far out, so I checked in Manteca. The soonest there was April 23, even later. No, thanks. I returned to Stockton and the appointment for April 20 had already been snatched up in a matter of seconds. The next closest Kaiser location is in Elk Grove. There was an appointment available for April 22, so I booked it.

It puzzled me why it was so difficult to find anything sooner. A friend of mine who is a teacher in Gilroy received her first dose in that area. When it came time for the second, there had been a lack of supply and the closest place she could find to get the second dose was the Stockton Kaiser. She took a two-hour drive just to get that second dose.

Another friend who is in the 65-plus group sat in a long line of cars at a clinic held at the Stockton airport for six hours to receive the initial shot.

I found it hard to believe that people would have such a hard time getting the vaccine, especially when we have received letters from people living in Calaveras telling us how simple the process was.

Then I remembered that Corissa Davidson, general manager of the Enterprise, had told me that if you work in Calaveras County, you can get the vaccination there. I checked the county website on April 6, checked the appropriate boxes, and I had an appointment the next day.

Driving up to Frogtown, I expected there to be a long line of bumper-to-bumper cars at the entrance. There were two ahead of me and one was in the other lane. I stopped for the initial security. He checked my documentation and waved me through.

A second stop verified I was booked, and then I was directed to park. Scores of volunteers were prepped to handle any amount of traffic. I was directed into an empty spot by one such person and given instructions on where to go in the fairgrounds.

Up the hill I walked with a handful of other folks, making our way to the main convention hall. A woman directed me to wait a moment, then I was called over to a check-in kiosk. It took less than a minute. I was sent down one of two lines and waited less than three minutes.

In that time, I looked around the place. Stations were set up with professionals ready to inoculate. An area that was set up with several hundred chairs had a sparse number of people waiting to see if they would have any adverse effects from the shot they received.

I was called over an empty chair, verified my information with the person administering my shot, and I received a quick, painless stick in the upper arm. Then I joined the others in the large waiting area. Fifteen minutes was programmed into a small electronic timer and handed to me before I was asked to find a place to sit, which, again, wasn’t difficult.

After hearing so many stories about the difficulty and then having such a painless experience in Calaveras County, I had to wonder if this was an anomaly or what factors came into play to make this machine so well-oiled.

“Frogtown has been a very functional location for our vaccinations efforts,” said Sam Leach, interim Calaveras County Public Health Officer. “We have a lot of great people pitching in to help our community get vaccinated. It has been a collaborative effort between Public Health, local CERT volunteers, OES, volunteers from (Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office), and workers that are contracted through FEMA. Larger vaccine clinics take a lot of support and planning. We’re thankful for all the support we have gotten from our community and beyond.”

As for supply, Leach said that around 3,000 doses of the vaccine are being given countywide every week at Mark Twain Medical Center and at local pharmacies, with 1,500 to 2,000 scheduled weekly at the Frogtown location.

“Things look very different than they did in January,” Leach said. To date, more than 25,800 vaccines have been given in Calaveras County.

Since I work in Calaveras County but live in San Joaquin, I wondered if others who do likewise were taking advantage of getting vaccinated in Calaveras.

“Almost everyone who gets a vaccine in Calaveras County either lives or works here,” Leach said. “From January through March, when supply was much lower, we had to make sure all the doses were going to county residents.”

Leach said that the state has transitioned to a statewide effort with the use of the MyTurn website.

“The overwhelming majority of people are still getting vaccinated where they live,” Leach said. “But as supply and eligibility have opened up statewide, we have had a small number of people coming from neighboring counties.”

After the 15 minutes had passed, I didn’t feel like anything was amiss. I returned the timer and was sent on my way. Now, I’ve heard that the second dose can vary in how people feel in the ensuing days, but I’m happy to report with the first dose, the only thing I felt was a sore arm for a day.

Vaccinations are now open to people 16 and over in Calaveras County. To schedule an appointment, go to myturn.ca.gov.

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Editor

When I'm not immersed in the news, I am usually found running with my wife or working out. I've had a passion for the news, especially the comics, since I was 9 years old. I've worked in almost every facet of the news arena.

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