As COVID anniversary approaches, Santa Clara pins hopes on vaccinations

This weekend marks a grim milestone in the Bay Area. It’s been one year since the first COVID-19 case for the region was diagnosed. And in that time, the infection and death rates have continued to climb.

Santa Clara County officials say there have been more than 100,000 COVID cases, claiming upwards of 1,300 lives.

"It’s very sad. Every one one of those isn’t just a number, it represents a person. It could be your parent, your brother, your sister, your mother, your father," said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, the county’s COVID testing and vaccine officer.

Santa Clara County is prepared to make a major push to increase COVID vaccinations, he said. 

Currently, upwards of 7,500 people per day are receiving the medicine. Fenstersheib said the goal is to get to 15,000, starting with those 75 years of age and older.

"Getting the vaccine into the arms of seniors in our community will go a long way in preventing further deaths," said Fenstersheib.

Soon after registering the Bay Area’s first COVID case, Santa Clara County had what was believed to be the first fatal infection in the country..

"I did not expect it to last this long, when we first learned about it. Obviously the disease has evolved," Dr. Marcelle Dougan, an assistant professor in the San Jose State University Department of Public Health and Recreation. "There was a lot we didn’t know. And so the knowledge has changed a bit."

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Officials said there’s now a concerted effort to vaccinate areas with high infection rates, such as East San Jose. So far, 450 people there have received the first dose of the vaccine, but there are efforts to ramp up that effort.

"You know we have a lot of people in our community who are a little afraid of the vaccine," said Cindy Chavez, a member of the county Board of Supervisors.

A new public service announcement pulling in the resources and voices of professional athletes is being used to calm nerves and increase vaccination rates. Chavez partnered with the Sports Authority on the PSA..

"We would be showing a united front, that we’re all as a community fighting covid. And one of the best ways to do that is to get vaccinated," said Chavez.

Officials said upwards of 80% of the populous needs to be vaccinated before herd immunity is reached. They said they have the infrastructure, but are waiting on the federal and state governments to supply the vaccine..

"With herd immunity, the disease stops the spread in the society and that’s what we want," said Dougan. 

"If we don’t get the vaccine it’s gonna take us longer, and people are gonna have to wait longer," Fenstersheib said.

Officials say they expect other drug-makers to start vaccine production and distribution in the coming weeks. That, coupled with President Joe Biden increasing vaccine distribution to 10 million doses across the country next week may ease short supplies.