In recent days I’ve been thinking a lot about my grandmother, who is a resident of a memory care facility, and recently had her first dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Elderly residents of long-term care facilities have been among the hardest hit of this pandemic, and were therefore supposed to be among the very first to get the vaccine, and yet due to the delays of the beleaguered CDC Pharmacy Partnership, she only received her first dose last week.
I haven’t seen my grandmother since early 2020, before the pandemic hit. In recent years her memory has faded to the point that she no longer remembers me, nor even her four daughters.
When she still possessed her memories, among them was enduring the frigid Midwestern winter in a small, drafty cabin as my grandfather went through basic training. World War II had ended, but not before taking the lives of 416,000 of my grandparents’ generation. They were on the tail end of a generation that made enormous sacrifice, paid with their lives to prevent bigotry and fascism from overwhelming democracy. 416,000 American lives lost, over the course of four years.
Over the next week, the United State’s COVID-19 deaths will likely eclipse that grim total in less than a year. Like the “Greatest Generation” we have made sacrifices.
Healthcare workers have endured harrowing conditions to save lives, people have lost jobs, and business owners have seen their life’s work go down the drain. And yet, the ultimate price has been predominantly paid by the elderly.
In Nevada County almost ¾ of the deaths have been among people over the age of 80. People like my grandmother. Yet somehow the fact that the elderly are at greatest risk is used by many as a way to minimize and dismiss this pandemic.
So I’ll put it in different terms: The same generation that paid the ultimate price when our nation came together to defeat the Nazis is yet again paying the ultimate price, but this time for our nation’s failure to come together and defeat the pandemic. The generation that died to preserve democracy is dying again as we squander it.
We have to do better when it comes to the vaccine. So much hope is pinned to the vaccine that it feels as though all the despair and emotion we’ve experienced over the last year is pouring out in this moment.
While Public Health and our healthcare providers inject doses of vaccine, I have to inject a dose of reality into the expectation and anticipation that is driving so much frustration. The vaccines were developed and authorized in record time, but we always knew that supply would be limited at first and then grow.
We are turning around vaccine as quickly as we get it, but there is not enough to go around.
The new President has pledged 100 Million doses in his first 100 days in office. Because the current vaccine requires two doses, this means 50 million more people vaccinated. That’s around 15% of the total population, which in Nevada County translates to around 15 thousand more people vaccinated by April 30th. Even if we achieve the President’s ambitious goal, this is going to take time.
Theodore Roosevelt said “comparison is the thief of joy.” Lately some have suggested that Nevada County is being “beaten” by other counties. This is misleading at best. Counties are different. We have amazing partnerships with our two hospitals and many healthcare providers who are doing exceptional work to get the vaccine administered, but we don’t have large medical networks that receive their own vaccine, like other counties. We also have more people in Phase 1A then neighboring counties, and a much larger percentage of our population over the age of 65. The state must recognize those demographic and infrastructural differences and provide more vaccine to counties like ours.
The fact is that we are on track or ahead in the only metric that doesn’t depend on more vaccine supply, which is that we are getting vaccine out the door and into arms as soon as we get it.
As of January 14th we had received 3,320 doses that had already been administered, scheduled, or distributed to partners. The week of January 22 we’re receiving an additional 1,950 doses that will be used to complete Phase 1A and move on to Phase 1B.
In collaboration with Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital we are opening a large clinic that will be able to keep vaccine flowing. Our team and our partners are doing exceptional work, and we have moved through Phase 1A more quickly than we expected as a result. We are scaling our operations and we will continue to ensure that the pace of vaccine delivery in Nevada County is limited by the supply of vaccine, not by a lack of capacity, planning or hard work.
You can get almost daily updates by texting vaccineinfo to 898211, by calling 211, or by visiting www.mynevadacounty.com/coronavirus/vaccine.
This is the best way to find out when you are eligible, and to get information when appointments are available. If you are in Phase 1A and you haven’t heard from Public Health regarding vaccine eligibility, please submit your information to us via an online form: www.MyNevadaCounty.com/Coronavirus/Phase1A
This community has endured so much over the last year, and there is finally an end in sight. While it is going to take time, how difficult that time gets depends on whether we tear each other down in frustration, or embrace the legacy of my grandparents’ generation and come together to confront our challenges.
Ryan Gruver, DirectorNevada County Health & Human Services