Tulare Agricenter, county settle on mass vaccination agreement

Tulare County agrees to pay the International Agricenter $75,000 a month through August to host mass vaccination clinic county announces they’ll use My Turn to schedule appointments

VISALIA – While the International Agricenter in Tulare waved goodbye to any hope of holding the World Ag Expo long ago, thousands of people will still be streaming through for months to come.

Last week the Tulare County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to an agreement that would land the Agricenter $75,000 a month from March 2 through Aug. 31. The agreement also leaves room for another $25,000 for incidental expenses.

The Agricenter has played host to several large vaccination clinics since vaccines became available in California. Tulare County Health and Human Services Director Tim Lutz said since using the center as a point of distribution (POD), they have been able to vaccinate 2,000 people in a day.

“Given the site’s central location, conducive traffic flow, [and] ample room for further expansion limited only by vaccine availability…the county desires to increase the scope and duration of this partnership,” a Tulare County staff report stated.

Supervisor Pete Vander Poel, whose district includes Tulare, lauded the agreement at last week’s Tulare City Council meeting. He noted that he was seeking collaboration with the city, but added this is a good opportunity to recover the revenue lost from the Expo.

“You hear horror stories in other counties waiting 3-5 hours for a vaccination. Vaccinations here are done between half an hour and an hour,” Vander Poel Said. “Jerry Sinift, CEO of Agri-Center, believes it is very possible the Agri-Center has a max capacity of 100 lanes of vaccinations, meaning it could vaccinate up to 10,000 people per day.”

Chairwomen of the board, Amy Shuklian said she has been impressed with the work at the Agricenter. She said county staff have been “on point” and flexible. When wind picked up three weekends ago it took the staff only 22 minutes to reroute cars and protect vaccinators in the pavilion.

“This was originally on the consent calendar, and I asked for it to be pulled for a couple of reasons. It’s $75,000 a month, which is a large amount. But you know, mostly because I want to thank the international Agricenter. They have just been incredible partners with us,” Shuklian said.

The Tulare County staff report states that the cost is, “anticipated to be eligible for 100% reimbursement through Federal Emergency Management Agency public assistance funding.” It adds that other relevant state and federal COVID relief funding could also be used to reimburse the cost.

My turn

Two weeks ago, Lutz explained the county’s concern over dealing with the state’s third-party administrator, Blue Shield. He added that the state’s MyTurn.ca.gov platform has resulted in accepting appointments from residents outside of the county because it allows residents to make appointments within a 50 miles radius. However, the county announced last week that they are now using the My Turn platform for vaccination appointments.

In a widely distributed email, Tulare County Public Health said the county has partnered with Curative to operate the ongoing mass vaccination clinic at the Agricenter. The email added that appointments are now available in the scheduling platform for those who are eligible.

Tulare County Public Health maintained that supply of the vaccine is still limited to eligible groups but adds that residents can sign up to be notified when they are eligible.

“If it isn’t your turn yet, you can register to be notified when you become eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Tulare County. Currently, health care workers, individuals age 65 and older, and front line workers in education and childcare, emergency services and public safety, and food and agriculture can book appointments,” the email stated.

The home page asks users to select a language; then they will be prompted to click to check their eligibility. On the next page, users will be asked to confirm their eligibility through questions, including what county they live in, they’re occupation, and their age range. The portal will then let users know if they are or are not eligible.

Those whose turn it is to get the vaccine will then be asked to put in an address or ZIP code to find appointment locations and times — provided any vaccination clinics are available. For those not eligible, the website will give the user the option to register for updates. The prompt includes questions about their age range, their employment, whether they live in a long-term care setting or congregate housing, and some personal information, including name, ZIP code and phone number.

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