The American healthcare system is a disjointed mess, which makes rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine a disjointed mess as well. But a lot of people are working hard to get it done as best they can. Here’s some information to help you get yourself or another person vaccinated.
Who can get the vaccine?
- -The currently available vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) are approved for people over the age of 16. Vaccines for children are still undergoing approval and are expected in the fall.
- -As of this time (March 1), vaccines are being given to healthcare workers, employees & residents of long-term care facilities, people ages 65 and over, and frontline essential workers listed here under the heading "Eligible Now."
- -Starting March 15, people between the ages of 16-64 with underlying health conditions may also be eligible for vaccination
- -If you aren’t sure whether or not you are eligible for a vaccination, you can check the California Department of Public Health “My Turn” website. On My Turn, you can add your cell phone number and an email address if you have it, and they will notify you when you become eligible for the vaccine. As the vaccine is made eligible to more people, the County will also post that information here.
- -You do NOT need health insurance or to provide a social security number to get the vaccine. You may be asked to provide a health insurance number if you have one, but you are not required to have it.
Where do you go to get the vaccine?
- -You need to make an appointment in advance. Not every vaccine provider has appointments at a given time, due to limited vaccine supply. The best strategy is to try to try each of the several options below until you find one with available appointments.
- -By far, most of the vaccine is being distributed by the Contra Costa County Health Agency, so you should start by requesting a county appointment online or calling 1-833-829-2626. The phone line is open 8 am - 8 pm. Even if you normally use another health provider (Kaiser, Lifelong, Sutter), you are more likely to get vaccinated by the County because they receive a lot of the vaccine supply. By all reports, the County-run vaccine clinics are operating smoothly and the wait time once you arrive is not very long. The county is vaccinating in eight locations as of the first week of February, including the Richmond Auditorium at City Hall.
- -You should also fill out the form at the “My Turn” website run by the state, to gain access to additional vaccine events outside of the county (such as the one at Oakland Coliseum).
-At the bottom of this page is a list of all the organizations providing the COVID vaccine in Contra Costa County with links to sign up for appointments The list includes Rite Aid, CVS, Walgreens, Lifelong Medical, La Clinica, and Kaiser. You must schedule an appointment to be vaccinated at all of those locations, so follow the instructions provided on the page to do so.
How is Richmond doing overall?
So-so, so far.
In terms of percentage of people vaccinated, Contra Costa is doing very well when compared to other counties. There are enough vaccination sites to distribute all the vaccine the county gets from the state every week. It can be difficult to get an appointment at times, but people who stay on top of it eventually succeed.
But another question is who is getting the vaccine -- are people of color, people experiencing homelessness, incarcerated people, and people with disabilities getting their fair share? These are the people who have been hardest hit by COVID infections and deaths in most parts of the country, so it makes sense from both a health and justice standpoint that vaccines must be focused on those communities. Most Bay Area counties have not even begun reporting data on vaccine distribution by race and ethnicity. Thankfully, Contra Costa is collecting and reporting that data here.
The graphs on that page show that Hispanics and Black/African Americans in Contra Costa County are being vaccinated at a lower rate than whites. You can also see that wealthier East County cities like Walnut Creek, Danville, Lafayette, and Orinda have vaccinated 30% of their population, which is double Richmond’s vaccination rate of 15%.
County officials have explained that some of those discrepancies may have something to do with the people who are eligible for vaccines first, which are healthcare workers and senior citizens. There are more healthcare workers and senior citizens living in East County than in West County, and the senior population in the County skews white. However, as vaccines are given to broader segments of the population, we want to see the disparity between races, ethnicities, and cities grow smaller. The County Health Agency is taking steps to try to make that happen -- sending mobile vaccination units into neighborhoods, working on messages to convince those hesitating to take the vaccine that it is effective and safe. But more can and should be done, and more people should be part of it.
- -The county encourages everyone to help others get signed up for vaccination. If you are willing to donate some time helping people sign up for vaccination appointments, let us know here, and RPA will connect you with organizations doing that work in Richmond.
- -Advocate at the County level to increase outreach and vaccination distribution in zip codes that have been most severely affected by COVID-19 and that have high indexes of economic hardship.