By Supervisor Lisa Bartlett
As January draws to a close, it’s been quite a busy start to the New Year. With the launch of ‘Operation Independence,’ a program intended to complete all county vaccinations by July 4, 2021, and the opening of two Super Vaccination Points of Dispensing (PODS) at Disneyland in Anaheim and Soka University in Aliso Viejo, it has been full steam ahead since the initiation of the most aggressive vaccination campaign in the County’s history.
I know many of you have questions regarding the vaccine distribution process and some have expressed frustration with the timing and rollout of the vaccines. So, let me bring you up to date on where we stand in terms of the vaccine rollout.
Orange County has a population of 3.2 million people, many of whom are anxious to receive the vaccine. Vaccines are being distributed utilizing a phased, tiered approach established by the State, which the County is mandated to follow. Currently, individuals who fall within Phase 1A – all tiers, law enforcement working in high-risk settings, and those over the age of 65 are eligible to receive the vaccine. To put this in perspective, countywide, the number of individuals eligible to receive a vaccine in Phase 1A is approximately 660,000.
The California Department of Public Health is responsible for distributing supplies of the vaccine to all 58 counties in the State, including Orange County. It should be noted that the County’s Health Care Agency is not the only vaccine channel in Orange County—it is one of many. Eighty percent of Orange County’s vaccine allocation is distributed to hospitals, health providers, and community health centers, while the remaining 20%, is distributed to the County for use at County distribution sites. At this time, the need far exceeds the current supply. I, along with County staff, are working diligently with state officials and leveraging all available resources to secure additional doses of the vaccine.
Eligible individuals who wish to receive a vaccine at a county-run POD, must make an appointment through Othena via Othena.com, or the smart phone application available in the Apple app store and in Google Play. I understand there has been some frustration among the public in terms of navigating the app and the length of time it takes to secure an appointment once they have registered. New updates were made to the app to address technical issues and simplify the process. The Othena.com website enables individuals to register for vaccinations and schedule appointments. In addition, individuals can then download the free Othena app on their smartphones. The app can notify them when appointments are available, remind them of their appointment day, allow them to reschedule, scan a quick reader (QR) code to check-in, provide wait-time estimates, and schedule secondary appointments.
In terms of securing an appointment, due to high demand and limited supply, this may take some time, and I ask that you please be patient. Once registered, you will be placed in a digital waiting room and receive notification via email or through the app when an appointment becomes available. Appointments are prioritized based on age, time of registration and availability of vaccines. If you are experiencing an issue registering through Othena, please call the Health Care Hotline at 714.834.2000. Trained operators are available Monday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to assist you. The hotline also offers automated responses to frequently asked questions 24 hours a day. Please note, the hotline cannot schedule appointments or register users in the Othena system, but it can help you through the process.
I hope you find this information helpful. We are working as quickly as possible, given the circumstances, to schedule appointments and get the vaccine into the arms of individuals as expeditiously as possible. I understand people are anxious but please be patient and bear with us. Anyone who wants a vaccine will get one. It will take time, but we’ll get there!
Lisa Bartlett sits on the Orange County Board of Supervisors, representing the 5th District. She was reelected in 2018.