Inland Empire counties are quickly learning that the state system being used to register people for the COVID-19 vaccine can cause challenges.
Riverside County director of public health Kim Saruwatari told her board of supervisors on Tuesday that vaccine registrations on the county’s website are filling up so fast that some people who are eligible to get the vaccine during Phase 1a of the distribution can not get appointments.
“Part of the problem is they are filling up with people who are not eligible for vaccination right now," said Saruwatari. "The system is not capable of screening at registration. So people who are in later phases or tiers are registering for appointments thinking they can come get the vaccine and then are turned away when they show up at the vaccination site.”
She said the state is working on fixes to the system, and the county will continue to adapt its vaccine information campaign.
As of January 11, Riverside County has administered over 28,000 doses of the nearly 80,000 received, and is now using mass vaccination sites like the Perris Fairgrounds and the Lake Elsinore stadium to administer doses. Phase 1a includes employees in fields like healthcare, emergency services, dental workers and mortuaries.
Vaccine progress comes as county hospitals continue to face the unprecedented winter surge of patients, said director of emergency management Bruce Barton.
“Going through the numbers just doesn’t capture the current environment that our healthcare providers are functioning under," said Barton. "It is absolutely remarkable that in the midst of this unprecedented surge, in the conditions they are having to work in, they are continuing to be resolute in taking care of our residents and visitors.”
Barton told the board that ICU capacity is at 133 percent, and on some days overall capacity at as many as ten hospitals have hit at or above 100 percent. The county recently received military medical personnel and more staff from the state is expected to arrive this week.
Also arriving this week are eight more 40-foot refrigerated trailers to handle morgue overflow, bringing the county total to 10. Barton says a local mortuary and the Sherriff’s Coroner have been helping with overflow of the deceased as hospital morgues max out.
To keep track of Riverside and San Bernardino County's phased distribution of the vaccine and how to register for the vaccine when your group becomes eligible, visit the link to your county's vaccine dashboard below: