Kings County Superintendent Todd Barlow's letter to superintendents regarding vaccine rollouts

Superintendent Todd Barlow
Superintendent Todd Barlow

We have a lot to be proud of in Kings County. Very early during the pandemic, we committed to the truth: the best place for the majority of our students is in school, full time, five days per week. At the same time, we have offered distance learning to families who want it or need it.

We have been in constant contact with our local department of public health to navigate the ever-changing guidance from the State, finding the best way to serve our students. That work has paid off.

Many of our districts have been serving students in-person for months, and currently, all thirteen districts are providing in-person instruction to some extent. Many districts are operating with their normal schedules and proving that our schools are safe for students and staff. Our widespread in-person instruction is proof of your leadership and proof of the dedication of teachers and other school staff.

On February 11, 2021, we met again with the Kings County Department of Public Health (KCDPH), and this time we were happy to be joined by Adventist Health. I want to reiterate the main points of the message we received at that meeting.

Both KCDPH and Adventist Health have been receiving a supply of vaccinations from the state. By all accounts, the allotment is not sufficient to cover our needs, and that is the case all over the state. Health care workers and some other groups were eligible for the first allotment in California's tiered system (Tier 1 a). Recently, the state has opened Tier 1 b for individuals 65 and older and other groups, including educators.

KCDPH has prioritized the vaccination of individuals 65 years and older and has a waiting list of over 2000 people. They forecast receiving a little over 1000 vaccines per week in the near future.

Adventist Health recently held a vaccination event at Hanford Joint Union High School District for individuals 65 and older. We learned that HJUHSD staff and one other district were provided the opportunity to participate. We thought this heralded a shift in the vaccination rollout, focusing on education staff. However, as we learned today, that is not the case. Adventist Health has currently received a much smaller allocation of vaccines (400) and will now align their distribution with the priorities set by KCDPH.

We also confirmed something we already knew. The State is mandating that the vaccine distribution be shifted to a third-party administrator and a new web-based system will be implemented. As mentioned in the KCDPH press release on Februa1y 11, 2021:

The Kings County Department of Public Health (KCDPH) will soon be transitioning to the State's mandated MyTurn, a website platform to schedule COVID-19 vaccine appointments online.

This shift will likely happen within the next two weeks. KCDPH does not anticipate being able to transition its focus to other groups in Tier 1 b before this State takeover of the distribution process. To our understanding, the MyTurn system will not use a waitlist system but will open up appointments to all eligible individuals at once.

Once the new system is activated, both KCDPH and Adventist Health will still be allocated vaccinations but will not control who is eligible to receive them. Our efforts at advocacy might best be directed to the state level. I sent you information on our Assembly and Senate representatives and their chiefs of staff yesterday.

Finally, we learned that CVS Pharmacy will receive an allotment of vaccines from the federal government. This allocation is separate from state allocations, and community members may contact CVS to find out more information.

Vaccinations are part of an important long-term strategy, and we are seeing the challenges inherent in a statewide rollout. Overall, I continue to be amazed and encouraged by the dedication and commitment of our educational community, our partners at KCDPH, and others like Adventist Health. Difficult times often reveal the true nature of people, and we have a lot to be proud of in Kings County.

Todd Barlow

Kings County Superintendent of Schools

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