SAN JOSE, Calif. (KTVU) - Santa Clara County on Thursday opened up thousands of first-dose vaccination appointments after offering very few for the past month.
Eligible residents can book an appointment at one of the nine locations through the county's website, but slots are going fast.
The new vaccine appointments come as Santa Clara County health officials warning about an alarming increase in COVID variants.
"This means that we're back in a bit of a precarious place," said the county's health officer, Dr. Sara Cody. "The numbers are beginning to pick up. And right now we are in a race between the variants and the vaccine."
Cody said all four of what the CDC has dubbed "variants of concern" are now circulating in the region, including 92 cases of the U.K. variant and three cases of the South African variant.
Stanford Health Care's clinical virology lab has been screening for coronavirus variants.
Just last week, lab director Dr. Ben Pinsky said they detected the new India variant, just one day after the Indian government announced it.
"A little bit concerning that it was already here in our area and just shows how rapidly these variants can spread throughout the globe," said Pinksy.
This is why vaccines are crucial say health officials.
Santa Clara County received 58,000 vaccine doses this week and expects more than 71,000 doses next week.
But the slight uptick is not enough to meet the demand, especially after the state's eligibility on April 1 expanded to include people age 50 and up.
Officials warn it could take a few weeks before appointments free up.
"Still adding a lot of people that we don't have vaccine for now, so please everyone be patient," said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, Santa Clara County's Vaccine Officer. "We are told the vaccine supply should increase by the middle or end of April and well into May for sure."
The region has made good progress in the fight against COVID-19, with consistent declines in positivity and case rates since January.
But with case rates flattening and some indications they are starting to tick up, Cody is asking residents to continue wearing masks with anyone outside of their household including with people who are vaccinated.
She is also asking people to delay non-essential travel for a little longer.
"Don't indoor dine, don't go to indoor bars, don't host an indoor gathering at your home. Even if allowed under the state rules, don't do it. It's not safe. Not yet," Cody warned.
36 percent of Santa Clara County residents 16 years of age and older have received one vaccine dose, while 22% of the same group have been fully vaccinated.
The county says its goal is to vaccinate 85% of the population by August.