Cars were lining up Wednesday morning outside Disneyland, where Orange County officials are set to debut a new front in the war against COVID-19 by turning the shuttered theme park into a coronavirus vaccine center.
The vaccine distribution center at Disneyland will be one of five regional mega-sites throughout Orange County. Despite the lineup of cars hours before the center is set to open, officials said people would need an appointment before receiving the vaccination.
It’s not clear where the next site will be opened, but county officials have an agreement with Knott’s Berry Farm as another location to inoculate residents.
Also under consideration are the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa and possibly UC Irvine.
The mega-sites are technically called “super PODS,” an acronym for Point of Distribution.
“We don’t have all of these things worked out,” Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairman Andrew Do said of other possible sites. “A lot of it will depend on the amount of vaccines that will be coming to Orange County. There’s no point setting up Super PODS if we don’t have vaccines to keep it running.”
The county’s goal is to inoculate 7,000 residents daily at each site, Do said.
“If you open up one more site that’s 14,000 a day,” he told City News Service. “That’s a lot. That’s almost 100,000 a week. So the question is do we get that quantity? We hope so, but that’s a very ambitious goal.”
Ultimately, the county will be shooting to vaccinate at least two million people to achieve the 60% to 70% herd immunity that would halt the virus’ spread, Do said.
“How do you vaccinate two million people like twice — so that’s four million doses,” he said. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require two shots, about three to four weeks apart.
But officials say the county can’t just repurpose its testing sites into vaccination sites because COVID-19 is still rampaging through the community.
“In the middle of a surge with record high numbers it’s not the time now to pivot away from testing,” Do said.
“I see this as our first significant step as a county to take back our county from COVID,” Do said. “This is now us fighting the virus and defeating it by getting a lot of people vaccinated.”
County officials took the initiative on vaccine distribution as hospital officials were too busy caring for the surge of patients to also handle inoculations.
On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors approved hiring the Idea Hall public relations firm to help officials persuade skeptical residents to get the shots. A big focus will be on getting through to residents in lower-income communities where there is a language barrier or other impediment to learning about the safety of the new vaccines.
Do said officials need the help “overcoming fear and misinformation.”
He noted that residents in the poorer neighborhoods are more vulnerable to COVID-19.
“When they get COVID they get a lot sicker and die more often and they drive up the numbers that the state looks at and in turn that will keep our economy closed, so it benefits all of us to really look at all of these low-equity communities and help to control the growth of the virus there,” Do said.
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