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Tajha Chappellet-Lanier here, thinking about how our differences show up in what we choose to prioritize. During this afternoon’s Monterey County Board of Supervisors meeting, Health Officer Edward Moreno outlined a clear vision for how the county will prioritize administering its still-limited supply of the Covid-19 vaccine.

As of Feb. 17, some new people will become eligible—specifically those between 65 and 74 years of age who work in the food and agriculture, childcare and education or emergency services sectors, and those between 65 and 74 who live in one of the 12 zip codes identified as hardest hit. Those 75 and over, from any zip code or industry, will continue to be able to receive the vaccine as well.

“This strategy addresses the county residents most likely to die of Covid-19, while beginning to protect additional essential workers, and considers equity by offering vaccine to individuals in communities historically burdened with poorer health and social outcomes,” Moreno’s slide deck read. At the current vaccine supply rate of 3,200 first doses per week, the health department estimates that it will take 62 weeks (or 16 months) to get through all the people in this Phase 1b, Tier 1 category. (Vaccine supply numbers have already improved, though, and Moreno seemed to suggest that he anticipates they will continue to do so.)

The choice to specify which county residents over 65 are eligible at this point is a distinction from other parts of the state, where those 65 and up, regardless of industry or place of residence, are eligible. Given limited vaccine supply, though, it’s a choice that makes sense. Take a look at county data on cases by location—zip codes in and around Salinas account for almost 46 percent of the county’s Covid cases to date, while those on the Peninsula and Big Sur make up less than 13 percent. That’s a big difference. 

Of course, not everyone will agree with this equity-focused approach. During public comment, one speaker told the board he’s disappointed the county isn’t taking care of its "ordinary" elderly. Serious hospitalizations and the mortality rate of those over 65 remains high. Moreno said only that announcements about when the general 65-plus population will be eligible will be made “at a later date.”

These are the tough choices we must make when resources are limited. (And really, when aren’t resources limited in one way or another?) There isn’t a perfect solution, just a best choice based on the available information. “I do ask that the community remain patient and kind,” Board Chair Wendy Root Askew said, reminding everyone that, for now, vaccine demand outstrips supply. 

Be good to each other. And if you or someone you know will become eligible for the vaccine on Feb. 17, go get vaccinated.

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