News

Menlo Park City Council splits on pilot program to deliver COVID-19 vaccine to homebound seniors

Menlo Park fire district's paramedics would need permission to administer shots

Residents at retirement communities such as Channing House resident Barbara Clark have benefited from vaccination efforts, but other seniors, such as those who are homebound, have been left behind. The city of Menlo Park is considering joining a pilot program to vaccinate homebound seniors with the San Mateo County Health Department and Menlo Park Fire Protection District. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

A proposal from Menlo Park Mayor Drew Combs and Councilman Ray Mueller to partner with the San Mateo County Health Department and Menlo Park Fire Protection District to bring vaccines to homebound seniors moved forward Tuesday night, but not without controversy.

The idea is for the city to work with the county and fire district to hold a pilot program in vulnerable areas covered by the fire district, including Menlo Park, East Palo Alto and unincorporated Menlo Park. The pilot program would likely be limited to just 20 people, Mueller said.

While 76% of Menlo Park residents have been vaccinated against COVID-19, according to county health data, as of about two weeks ago, only about 10% of homebound county residents have received their vaccinations, Mueller said.

One challenge that county health leaders have faced in providing vaccines to homebound residents is that vaccinations have been required to be provided by registered nurses, and that going into people's homes takes more time than at mass vaccination sites, he said.

The county is interested in the initiative and has contacted Blue Shield of California, which is administering the state's vaccination network, to see if it would be able to get permission to use paramedics, such as those employed by the fire district, to administer the vaccines. The city would participate by conducting outreach and funding whatever parts of the initiative are not reimbursable, he added.

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If the pilot program goes well, he said, county health leaders could amplify it throughout San Mateo County, authorizing fire districts to help vaccinate people who are homebound.

Three council members – Mueller, Combs and Councilwoman Jen Wolosin – ultimately agreed to authorize city staff to talk with county health officials at a meeting scheduled for Wednesday to develop a scope for the pilot project, and remain open to potentially providing some limited support to the initiative, such as funding or public outreach to develop a list of homebound seniors in the city.

Wolosin said she was open to exploring the city's limited participation in the pilot and encouraged the organizers to consult with the county's vaccination equity task force.

However, the proposal generated pushback from others. Vice Mayor Betsy Nash said that she opposed it because vaccinating people is not part of what cities generally do and because Menlo Park already has a long to-do list. "It's out of the scope of what we normally do and I just don't see taking resources away from something else," she said.

Councilwoman Cecilia Taylor opposed the idea because she has been working with the county's vaccine equity task force and said she didn't agree with the process that Mueller had taken in bringing the proposal forward, arguing that he should have been part of the task force conversations and done more outreach to homebound seniors first.

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Lynne Bramlett, board member of MPC Ready, an emergency preparedness community group, objected to the fact that Mueller had left the City Council meeting via Zoom to briefly present information about the proposal to the Menlo Park Fire Protection District board, which also meets on Tuesday nights but only once per month. She also objected to the proposal based largely on concerns about the process, saying more outreach and research should have been done first.

Separately, but nearly simultaneously, the fire district board ultimately approved a general motion of support for the idea, voting unanimously to express support for local efforts to increase access to COVID-19 vaccinations for vulnerable populations and be willing to work with local governments to support vaccine initiatives so long as they are approved by the San Mateo County Health Department.

The proposal will come back to the City Council for approval once more details are ironed out, Mueller said.

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Menlo Park City Council splits on pilot program to deliver COVID-19 vaccine to homebound seniors

Menlo Park fire district's paramedics would need permission to administer shots

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Thu, Apr 22, 2021, 11:45 am

A proposal from Menlo Park Mayor Drew Combs and Councilman Ray Mueller to partner with the San Mateo County Health Department and Menlo Park Fire Protection District to bring vaccines to homebound seniors moved forward Tuesday night, but not without controversy.

The idea is for the city to work with the county and fire district to hold a pilot program in vulnerable areas covered by the fire district, including Menlo Park, East Palo Alto and unincorporated Menlo Park. The pilot program would likely be limited to just 20 people, Mueller said.

While 76% of Menlo Park residents have been vaccinated against COVID-19, according to county health data, as of about two weeks ago, only about 10% of homebound county residents have received their vaccinations, Mueller said.

One challenge that county health leaders have faced in providing vaccines to homebound residents is that vaccinations have been required to be provided by registered nurses, and that going into people's homes takes more time than at mass vaccination sites, he said.

The county is interested in the initiative and has contacted Blue Shield of California, which is administering the state's vaccination network, to see if it would be able to get permission to use paramedics, such as those employed by the fire district, to administer the vaccines. The city would participate by conducting outreach and funding whatever parts of the initiative are not reimbursable, he added.

If the pilot program goes well, he said, county health leaders could amplify it throughout San Mateo County, authorizing fire districts to help vaccinate people who are homebound.

Three council members – Mueller, Combs and Councilwoman Jen Wolosin – ultimately agreed to authorize city staff to talk with county health officials at a meeting scheduled for Wednesday to develop a scope for the pilot project, and remain open to potentially providing some limited support to the initiative, such as funding or public outreach to develop a list of homebound seniors in the city.

Wolosin said she was open to exploring the city's limited participation in the pilot and encouraged the organizers to consult with the county's vaccination equity task force.

However, the proposal generated pushback from others. Vice Mayor Betsy Nash said that she opposed it because vaccinating people is not part of what cities generally do and because Menlo Park already has a long to-do list. "It's out of the scope of what we normally do and I just don't see taking resources away from something else," she said.

Councilwoman Cecilia Taylor opposed the idea because she has been working with the county's vaccine equity task force and said she didn't agree with the process that Mueller had taken in bringing the proposal forward, arguing that he should have been part of the task force conversations and done more outreach to homebound seniors first.

Lynne Bramlett, board member of MPC Ready, an emergency preparedness community group, objected to the fact that Mueller had left the City Council meeting via Zoom to briefly present information about the proposal to the Menlo Park Fire Protection District board, which also meets on Tuesday nights but only once per month. She also objected to the proposal based largely on concerns about the process, saying more outreach and research should have been done first.

Separately, but nearly simultaneously, the fire district board ultimately approved a general motion of support for the idea, voting unanimously to express support for local efforts to increase access to COVID-19 vaccinations for vulnerable populations and be willing to work with local governments to support vaccine initiatives so long as they are approved by the San Mateo County Health Department.

The proposal will come back to the City Council for approval once more details are ironed out, Mueller said.

Comments

Sad
Registered user
Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Apr 22, 2021 at 12:26 pm
Sad, Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
Registered user
on Apr 22, 2021 at 12:26 pm

The County wants to work with the City to vaccinate homebound seniors, the fire district wants to work with the City to vaccinate homebound seniors, and Nash thinks there are better things to do, and Taylor thinks her equity committee should sign off on it first? Sad.


Lynne Bramlett
Registered user
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 22, 2021 at 1:26 pm
Lynne Bramlett, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
Registered user
on Apr 22, 2021 at 1:26 pm

The article quotes me and gives me a title. For the record, I was speaking as an individual. I do object to the process used for the agenda topic. I think the matter should have first been discussed by the City of Menlo Park Council before it went to the Fire Board. Even better would have been the early involvement of community organizations already active in vaccination efforts so that they could give input into the proposal. The speaker after me also gave excellent input into what she expected to see in the proposal. Vaccinations are important and so is having a robust process and plan to reach all members of our community.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Apr 22, 2021 at 1:42 pm
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park: Park Forest
Registered user
on Apr 22, 2021 at 1:42 pm

It is sad that a fixation on "process" is allowed to impede this effort - it is NOT rocket science.

The Fire District knows exactly how to reach every resident - they do it day after day - and they have superbly well trained and experienced EMT/Paramedics.

The city should be eager to support any effort that will increase the vaccination rates amongst those who are hardest to reach.


Sad
Registered user
Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Apr 22, 2021 at 2:11 pm
Sad, Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
Registered user
on Apr 22, 2021 at 2:11 pm

Lynne the article says the Fire District only meets once a month and the meetings were the same night. It sounds like people were working hard to make the program possible as fast as possible, so they could help people. I applaud the work done here. It’s great to see the County, the City, and the Fire District working together to fight Covid-19. A month from now may be too late when people lives are literally at stake. Especially for a group as vulnerable as homebound seniors.


Enough
Registered user
Menlo Park: other
on Apr 22, 2021 at 8:41 pm
Enough, Menlo Park: other
Registered user
on Apr 22, 2021 at 8:41 pm

This really is a no brainer and I am sad to see Lynne, Cecilia and Betsy, all of who I respect, opposed to this. Regardless of process or "protocol" we are still in the midst of a pandemic and people are still getting sick, being hospitalized and dying. Getting the vaccine to people who are homebound is just common sense. I expect the City Council members to take their responsibility to the wellbeing of our city and community seriously, and opposing this idea just was not the right move toward doing that. I can't think of anything more important. "It's out of the scope of what we normally do and I just don't see taking resources away from something else" What is more important than keeping the citizens of this community healthy and alive? It might be out of the scope of what we normally do but this Pandemic is also out of the scope of normal. You were all for closing streets and giving the space to restaurants, is that in the normal scope?


Brian Cutcliffe
Registered user
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 23, 2021 at 10:07 am
Brian Cutcliffe, Menlo Park: The Willows
Registered user
on Apr 23, 2021 at 10:07 am

How can people object to helping folks get shots? The most important thing City Council can be doing is getting shots in arms. Especially helping vulnerable home bound seniors. Thank you Ray and Drew. I appreciate that you are also bringing a sense of time critical urgency to this. Sensitive egos and politicking shouldn’t get in the way of helping our citizens. This much more important than the nonsense about the city trying to ban gas ranges and BBQs.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Apr 23, 2021 at 6:58 pm
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park: Park Forest
Registered user
on Apr 23, 2021 at 6:58 pm

Upon reflection it is stunning that three MP Council members are unwilling to move quickly to save lives by working with the County and the Fire District to vaccinate every resident - particularly when the actual cost to the city will be minimal.

A city collaboration with the Fire District was proposed in December 2020 and the council ignored this recommendation and refused to even put it on its agenda. Now these three council members complain that nothing was done to get community input without acknowledging that they themselves are the reason that nothing happened since the recommendation was made last year!

"From: Peter Carpenter <[email protected]>
Subject: Re: City of Menlo Park could become a leader/model
Date: December 30, 2020 at 6:38:53 PM PST

As you watch the news tonight realize that the growing weak link in the vaccination chain is not vaccine supply but having well functioning and easily accessible vaccination sites.

Menlo Park has time to organize dozens of such sites, plan redistribution of vaccine to each of those sites, ensure adequate staffing at each site and set up an appointment and scheduling system.

There are lots of people and organizations to partner with including Fire District, pharmacies, doctors office, senior residences, CERTs etc.

IF MP has such a system and there is unused vaccine elsewhere in the County then the County will redirect that unused vaccine to MP.

Be bold and make MP the model for how to do mass vaccinations.

Peter

**********

Here is what more enlightened local jurisdictions are doing:

Web Link


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