Sonoma County issues millionth dosage of COVID-19 vaccine

Sonoma County reached a milestone in its battle with the coronavirus pandemic Friday when health officials issued their one-millionth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The shot was administered about 4:30 p.m. to Santa Rosa resident Vanessa Mendoza, 17, who was getting her second dosage at Roseland Community Center on Sebastopol Road.

“It was really unexpected,” Mendoza said shortly after county health officials presented her with a basket of snacks as a prize.

While she hadn’t originally intended to get vaccinated, said Mendoza, she changed her mind after the omicron variant led to a winter surge in COVID-19 cases across the nation, including in Sonoma County.

“I noticed cases increasing rapidly. I just seen it everywhere, getting worse,” she said.

By Saturday, the total number of vaccinations was up to 1,000,594, according to a release issued by the county. A total of 376,946 residents – 80% of Sonoma County’s eligible 5-and-over population – are now fully vaccinated, according to officials.

By comparison, 74% of California’s eligible population, and 65% of eligible Americans, are fully vaccinated.

“One million doses is an amazing accomplishment for a county of our size,” said Dr. Urmila Shende, Sonoma County’s vaccine chief. “But more importantly, today we celebrate the impact of each individual dose of vaccine. Every time someone receives a vaccination, they dramatically reduce their chances of getting COVID-19, of transmitting it to someone else and of becoming severely ill or dying. Countless people are alive today because they got vaccinated.”

The county has distributed booster doses to 215,806 residents. That’s 63% of the 12-and-older population eligible for a booster shot.

Officials noted the million doses include patients who aren’t residents of Sonoma County, nor does it take into account vaccinations from other health providers, like Kaiser Permanente.

Sonoma County has numerous vaccination clinics and the one on Sebastopol Road is “by far” the busiest, said Tim Tuscany, a registered nurse and site manager.

“I think a lot of people are getting their vaccines and we made a good dent,” he said, stressing results are based on a team effort.

The achievement comes as conditions improve across Sonoma County, with case rates dropping from 249 new cases per 100,000 people during the peak of the omicron surge to 40.2 as of Friday.

Latest data from Thursday showed 7,565 active cases across Sonoma County ‒ a drop from the previous week’s number of 13,778 cases.

There have been 464 deaths in Sonoma County since the pandemic began.

Lines at the Roseland Community Center have dropped recently, going from 400 people per day to about 100. Whereas patients once needed at least an hour to get their shots, Vanessa and her mother were only around for a matter of minutes.

Health experts stress COVID-19 still exists and they will continue issuing vaccinations and booster shots.

“We have no plans to leave,” Tuscany said.

School-based clinics continue to be offered in partnership with the Sonoma County Office of Education. The vaccine is also available at most pharmacies, health clinics and primary care providers. A list of clinics that open to the general public can be found at SoCoEmergency.org/vaccine.

California eased its statewide mask mandate Wednesday and opened the doors for vaccinated residents to mostly go about their daily lives without face coverings.

Still, county health officials stress people shouldn’t totally do away with masks.

“We have weathered the worst of the omicron surge. But let’s make no mistake, the pandemic is not over — COVID-19 is still spreading,” Dr. Sundari Mase, the county’s health officer, said Wednesday during an interview with the Press Democrat Editorial Board.

Sonoma County officials are deferring to state guidelines, which still require anyone who isn’t vaccinated from COVID-19 to wear a mask in indoor public settings.

Certain circumstances require people to wear masks regardless of their vaccination status. Examples include being on public transportation or a public safety worker.

Children who are in child care or attending K-12 schools in Sonoma County’s 40 school districts still need to wear masks for now.

State officials said they will assess pandemic trends through Feb. 28 before presenting a timeline on when mask restrictions may be eased for students.

You can reach Staff Writer Colin Atagi at [email protected] On Twitter @colin_atagi