Borrego Sun - Since 1949

Vaccine Comes to Town

THANKS, Jim Desmond


Last updated 2/15/2021 at 12:02pm

Kym McNabb

Thank you. Thank you, County Supervisor Jim Desmond for opening vaccinations in Borrego Springs. Borrego is grateful to you for urging the County to give our seniors priority. So nice and necessary to be moved to the top of the list. The welcome COVID-19 inoculations over the weekend offered a momentary respite from fears about the spread of the virus. Did everyone hear the collective sigh of relief? Kudos, also, to the local fire departments for organizing the process and acting so swiftly to bring aid and hope to the community.

Also, gratitude to the Borrego Springs COVID-19 Task Force for constantly reminding the County that Borrego exists and deserves to be a priority due to the lack of private providers, and a growing list of patients waiting for doses to come to Borrego Springs Clinic.

There was a short turnaround to notify people of the vaccination event. Everyone, who helped spread the word after Supervisor Desmond's announcement about the vaccinations, deserves credit.

And just when you thought it was safe to go out, it appears that the virus is mutating with new strains coming from the U.K., Brazil and Africa, which makes it even more urgent to get enough of the population vaccinated for immunity. It's shaping up to be a race between a deadly disease evolving to spread more efficiently from person to person, with a suspected increase in virility, competing with the availability of vaccine doses. In the people versus virus, it's getting more difficult to tell which will win.

Next time Borrego needs to do better. There needs to be a plan to reach Latino families, people who are not computer literate, or don't own computers, the disabled and homebound, and people who haven't decided whether to get the vaccine. According to a recent Pew Research Poll, 50 percent of Americans plan to refuse the vaccine, or aren't sure if they will get inoculated. In Borrego, there are issues of trust among some groups, cultural and language divides, along with the digital divide. There are transportation issues for some, hearing, reading and mobility problems for others.

Responsibly for motivating 70 percent of the population to get vaccinations in order to reach the ideal saturation labeled, "Herd Immunity," requires community involvement to stamp out this ugly disease, upending our lives.

Throughout this devastating year, the town's health care provider, Borrego Health, has been sadly absent without proactive education, no advocacy or public communications. Shouldn't the clinic have posted a website about the virus months ago? Shouldn't the clinic have been active in advocating safety measures? Shouldn't the clinic be notifying its members and community about vaccine availability prior to being asked by the newspaper? Why did community volunteers need to fill the void left by the only local healthcare provider?

Only after pressure from the Borrego Sun, did Borrego Health see fit to notify residents about a timeline for vaccinations, and how to join the waiting list for a future appointment for when the clinic receives dosage for the 65 – 75 plus population.

For Borregans, concerned enough about getting the shot to call the clinic, the response from the receptionist has typically been: "The vaccine will be available in a month." However, this information is only available to people who contact the clinic, and are lucky enough to have someone answer the phone.

Is the clinic sending current county vaccine announcements and locations to its patients via their cell phones? Surely, they have methods to reach elderly and disabled patients in Borrego, particularly those dependent on government sponsored insurance programs.

It's not too late for Borrego Health to start taking a proactive role in eradicating the virus in Borrego Springs. The clinic could do a service the next time the shots are available by joining the community, and the Borrego COVID-19 task force in messaging and contacting patients that qualify for the vaccine via its phone texting capabilities. It shouldn't matter if the vaccines are provided by the County and CalFire, local fire departments, or Borrego Health.

The clinic has the best resources for reaching Spanish-speaking residents, since many depend on Borrego Health services. The school district is another resource for mass notification. The question facing Borrego is: Who's in charge of developing ways to communicate the dangers of the virus, the science, safeguards and the availability of future vaccinations? The County is doing its best on Borrego's behalf. The volunteers of the Borrego Springs COVID-19 Task Force are making a valiant effort. To succeed in vaccinating all the residents, they'll need more support from the clinic, and community with phone banks, fliers, and, possibly, personal contact.

Governor Newsom has lifted some restrictions. Meanwhile, President Joe Biden and the President's pandemic advisors warn that we are in a war.

Corona exhaustion is very real and evident throughout California. People are tired of being isolated and socially distancing. We want to go shopping, out to dinner, hug our friends, host family gatherings, attend church and sporting and musical events. The business community is anxious about a new lockdown just after having some restrictions lifted, again. Businesses are pressing government offices to lift restrictions, and keep them lifted. Economic survival is at stake and a powerful motivator, even if it means risking a new rise in contagions.

It's not time to throw away the masks. The arrival of vaccinations in Borrego, also comes with bad news about the new strains of the virus, which the current vaccines may, or may not provide immunity.

"At the same time, new COVID-19 cases and reported hospitalizations in the U.S. have fallen significantly in recent weeks, which in turn has led states like California to loosen restrictions on activity. That's good news - as is the slightly increased pace in vaccinations - but average deaths per day this month are still above 3,000, and the overall COVID-19 risk level throughout the country is still far higher than it was in the fall.

Currently, all indications are that existing vaccines will remain effective against the known variants. One possible exception is the South African variant 501Y.V2. Moderna reported this week that the antibodies triggered by its vaccines were less effective at neutralizing the variant, though the vaccine still provided significant protection and the company said it could develop a booster shot if needed.

The bottom line: Think of this next and most dangerous stage of the pandemic as a three-legged race: more contagious variants against the pace of vaccinations, against our own willingness to endure more social distancing, sanitizing, masking and avoiding crowds.

With the ranks of the immunized growing, thankfully, in Borrego due to the efforts of Supervisor Desmond, the odds are better, but there's still a long way to go.

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