Vaccinations at the O.C. Fair? With county infections rising, officials say it’s worth a shot

Healthcare workers at vaccination site
Maxim Healthcare Services site manager Karen Hsu, right, with her team at the O.C. Fair for any walk-up guests who qualify for a vaccine.
(Don Leach / Times Community News )

At the O.C. Fair, it’s time for fun — and COVID-19 vaccinations.

With just 58% of Orange County residents fully inoculated against the coronavirus, health officials are seeking new ways to reach the hesitant and resistant, including hosting a vaccine clinic at the popular annual festival.

For the record:

4:47 p.m. July 30, 2021An earlier version of this story indicated the vaccination clinic will be open each day of the fair. It is closed on Saturdays.

From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday until the fair ends Aug. 15, the Orange County Health Care Agency will offer free vaccinations on a walk-in basis inside the fairground’s Costa Mesa building.

O.C. Fair and Event Center Executive Director Michele Richards said that throughout the pandemic, the site has held food distributions, offered COVID-19 testing and for a time served as one of five county-run vaccination super PODs (points of dispensing). So it just made sense to volunteer some prime fair real estate to the cause.


“We’ve been with people since the very beginning on the forefront of the fight against COVID-19,” Richards said. “We’re thrilled we can continue that effort with the vaccine clinic.”

Staffed by a handful of healthcare workers, the small set-up will be able to dispense up to 100 doses of either the Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson vaccine each day, with the ability to ramp up if demand is higher.

“The partnership with the O.C. Fair & Event Center allows us an opportunity to make sure that people are aware that vaccine clinics are available at various locations throughout the county seven days a week,” Anza Vang, the healthcare agency’s chief of strategy and development, said by email Thursday. “People are gathering and we want to be where they are to provide them with information about how to protect themselves.”

In addition to opening the onsite clinic, Richards said fair officials offered 750 free tickets to the healthcare agency to distribute as incentives to attract residents to clinics outside the fairgrounds. Those tickets are now being offered on certain days at a clinic at Huntington Beach’s Golden West College, one of 30 clinics operating weekly throughout Orange County.

“Golden West College was selected on several factors, including its location among the areas with higher testing positivity percentage, lower vaccination rates and case rates above other cities,” Vang said.

Getting younger crowds interested in vaccination is an important step if Orange County is to reach herd immunity. People under 35 are the least likely to be vaccinated; about 60% of those ages 25 to 34 have been fully inoculated, compared with 88.6% of residents ages 65 to 74, according to healthcare agency figures.

Meanwhile, new infections are rising more rapidly among people under 35. The agency reported 522 new coronavirus cases Thursday, with nearly 68% of infections occurring in those under 35, compared with nearly 8% among residents over 65.

The availability of vaccines at the O.C. Fair, which could attract hundreds of thousands of visitors even with limited attendance, may help remove any final barriers to vaccination that have kept some unprotected.

The way Richards sees it, it’s worth a shot.

“We strongly believe in vaccination — that’s the key to ultimately fighting the virus,” she said. “And there’s no better way to make it easy for people to get vaccinated. Come to the O.C. Fair, get your shot and then have fun.”

Cardine writes for Times Community News.