SANTA CLARA (CBS SF) -- The San Francisco 49ers and Santa Clara County health officials announced plans Friday for a large mass COVID-19 vaccination site at Levi's Stadium.
Officials said the site will open early next week with the initial capacity to vaccinate 5,000 people per day with plans to increase capacity up to 15,000 people as vaccine supplies increase.
The site -- which will be staffed and operated by Santa Clara County health officials -- will be larger than two other sites unveiled in other Bay Area counties over the last 48 hours. San Francisco opened a large vaccination site at Moscone Center on Friday. Meanwhile, a collaborative site between run by federal and state health officials was being readying to be opened the Oakland Coliseum.
"We recognize the urgent need for an effective and equitable vaccination effort for our community and are proud to partner with the County of Santa Clara to bring this vaccination site online as quickly and efficiently as possible," said 49ers President Al Guido of the Levi's site. "We have brought every resource at our disposal to bear on this challenge to ensure members of the community we live in each and every day can be vaccinated safely and quickly."
"Sports binds communities together and the 49ers helping to vaccinate our community shows true leadership and winning teamwork," Mike Wasserman, President of the County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors, added.
Also joining this partnership is Levi's -- the San Francisco-based global apparel company. The company will help drive awareness of vaccinations and are supporting logistical costs to ensure the site is able to come online as quickly as possible.
County public health officials had been hesitant to dramatically ramp up vaccination efforts until they could secure a consistent and sufficient supply of the vaccine.
"We're working with the state of California to try to assure that we'll have adequate vaccine to continue this mass vaccination process," Santa Clara County CEO Dr. Jeff Smith told reporters Friday.
On Thursday, Santa Clara County health officials announced a partnership with other major vaccine providers in the South Bay to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to any county resident 65 and older, regardless of one's healthcare provider.
Billed as a "no wrong door" policy, the new strategy is aimed to speed up distribution of the shots among the most vulnerable.
"In the county, we only have control over part of the system. And our job is to make it as clear and consistent and barrier-free as we can," Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said at a briefing on Thursday.
"So anyone who is 65 and up, doesn't matter where you go to get your medical care, you can register and get vaccinated. A Kaiser patient can come to the county, a Stanford patient can go to Kaiser, a county patient can go to Stanford. It doesn't matter," Cody went on to say, urging seniors to sign up.
According to Cody, out of the 1,473 people in the county who have died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, 80% of the deaths were among people 65 and older. So far, roughly 37% of people 75 and older have received the vaccine. That number drops to just 28% for people 65 and up.
The change was welcome news for seniors across the Santa Clara Valley.
"I think everybody's working on, trying to resolve all the issues they had in the past. Full speed ahead. Get it done," said 84-year-old James Oliver, who was receiving a vaccine at the county's Berger vaccination site in San Jose on Thursday.
"Trying to get an appointment with Kaiser was very frustrating," 70-year-old Julia Rencher told KPIX 5. Rencher said she eventually gave up on trying to make an appointment with Kaiser and turned to the county instead.
Santa Clara County has been administering roughly 6,700 doses of the vaccine over the past week. The county's target goal is 15,000 vaccinations a day in order to meet an August 1 deadline to vaccinate the majority of county residents.
Community leaders are hopeful the Levi's Stadium site will help to even out some of the disparities in the rollout of the vaccine thus far.
For example, the Latino community makes up roughly a quarter of the county's population but represents more than half, 51%, of positive cases of the coronavirus. And yet, in the first six weeks the vaccine has been available, only 10% of shots have ended up in the arms of the Latino community.
"As the vaccine becomes available, having more capacity, is really how we're going to make sure everybody gets vaccinated," says Supervisor Cindy Chavez.
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