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Inland Empire Counties Prepare for COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

National Institute of Health

The news of two promising COVID-19 vaccines, had both the Riverside and San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors discussing preliminary plans for distribution at their meetings Tuesday.

San Bernardino County Director of Public Health Corwin Porter says it is not yet clear how many doses the state is set to receive, but the latest vaccine news provides some mid-term hope.

“So that is good news for us because that is one way that we can help combat obviously the virus which has taken a major toll on our county,” said Porter.

It is expected to be around two months before the vaccine is deployed. Both Riverside and San Bernardino County will largely be following state and federal guidelines for distribution, but will be submitting independent county proposals to the state on December 1.

Healthcare workers will receive the vaccine first followed by a second phase of high-risk folks like people with underlying medical conditions and those who live in congregate settings. Then, other essential workers will be rolled in, until they get to the general population.

“Which is anticipated to be some time next summer hopefully sooner," said Porter. "As I said, we are hoping more vaccines have positive results and can join the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine.”

Logistics like how to store Pfizer’s vaccine at its required 80 degrees below zero means San Bernardino County purchased special freezers set to arrive later this week. Supervisor Curt Hagman says Ontario International Airport is exploring how they might build up storage to be a receiving and distribution center alongside LAX.

Riverside County Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser told his Board of Supervisors that until 60 to 65 percent of the county’s population receives the vaccine, mask wearing and social distancing will have to continue. This as the Inland Empire counties remains in the state’s most restrictive tier and face a swell in cases.

“A lot of election activity as well as Halloween are thought to be drivers for that," said San Berardino's Porter. "As well as people still gathering. A lot of people have the COVID fatigue syndrome where they are just struggling to stay in just their family units.”

San Bernardino County is developing a Go to Red Taskforce to re-evaluate public health messaging, dispel misinformation and start vaccine education.