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Orange County launches ‘Operation Independence’ to distribute COVID-19 vaccines countywide

Clinical pharmacist Stephanie Chao fills a syringe.
Clinical pharmacist Stephanie Chao fills a syringe with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach in December.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Orange County announced Thursday that it would be launching “Operation Independence,” in which county officials collaborate with the Orange County Fire Authority to help administer COVID-19 vaccinations to residents countywide.

County officials said the goal of Operation Independence is to set up regional vaccine points of dispensing. Officials said the county expects the need for at least five such sites. They will be brought online as they are approved, staffed and vaccines are made available. The sites are not yet determined, but are expected to dispense thousands of vaccinations daily once they are operational.

To do so, interim chairman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors Andrew Do said the county established an incident management team at the end of last year to secure locations and set up large, regional supersites that the county calls “super PODs.”

Once locations are finalized, officials said Thursday that the sites will be opened in phases and be located countywide.

UC Irvine researchers recently published the first study to analyze the presence of “pharmacy deserts” in California.

The announcement comes as the Orange County Health Care Agency reports 3,544 cases and 26 new deaths on Friday. This brings the total number of cases since March last year to 181,277 regionwide. Additionally, Orange County is now only two deaths away from reaching 2,000 cumulative deaths since data collection began.

That total is currently 1,998.

Empty vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
Empty vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

The first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine arrived in Orange County in December, initially allocated to frontline healthcare workers. Vaccines have also been dispensed to residents of skilled or assisted nursing facilities and other healthcare workers. This phase also includes first responders, who began to receive the Moderna vaccine in late December, and law enforcement in virus hotspots.

Firefighters at local agencies were vaccinated at one of three sites throughout Orange County, starting Dec. 26.

That has been expanded to include home health care and in-home supportive services, community health workers, public health field staff, primary care clinics, specialty clinics, laboratory workers, dental and other oral health clinics and pharmacy staff.

The next phase is expected to begin in February. It is expected to include members of the public of ages 75 or older, ages 65 to 74 with underlying health conditions and those working in the food and agriculture and education and childcare sectors.

It also includes those working in emergency services; transportation and logistics; industrial, residential and commercial sectors; and critical manufacturing. Those currently incarcerated and homeless will be included. For details on who qualifies for a vaccination in the current and coming phases, visit coronavirus.egovoc.com/covid-19-vaccination-distribution.

Vaccines will only be distributed to Orange County residents and those who work in the county that qualify at the supersites. Individuals will be asked to provide identification and documentation of their vaccine eligibility at the site.

Hospitalizations in the county are now at 2,259. Of those cases, 514 are currently in intensive care units in area hospitals.

The latest maps and charts on the spread of COVID-19 in Orange County, including cases, deaths, closures and restrictions.

Here are the latest cumulative coronavirus case counts and COVID-19 deaths for select cities in Orange County:

  • Santa Ana: 33,525 cases; 388 deaths
  • Anaheim: 30,631 cases; 421 deaths
  • Huntington Beach: 7,283 cases; 110 deaths
  • Costa Mesa: 5,967 cases; 55 deaths
  • Irvine: 6,781 cases; 28 deaths
  • Newport Beach: 2,574 cases; 31 deaths
  • Fountain Valley: 2,359 cases; 30 deaths
  • Laguna Beach: 559 cases; fewer than five deaths

Here are the case counts by age group, followed by deaths:

  • 0 to 17: 17,388 cases; one death
  • 18 to 24: 25,214 cases; five deaths
  • 25 to 34: 37,259 cases; 27 deaths
  • 35 to 44: 28,659 cases; 46 deaths
  • 45 to 54: 29,356 cases; 146 deaths
  • 55 to 64: 22,554 cases; 275 deaths
  • 65 to 74: 11,231 cases; 382 deaths
  • 75 to 84: 5,625 cases; 452 deaths
  • 85 and older: 3,870 cases; 664 deaths

Updated figures are posted daily at occovid19.ochealthinfo.com/coronavirus-in-oc. For information on getting tested, visit occovid19.ochealthinfo.com/covid-19-testing.

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