State planning 'vaccine administration network'
State officials announced Tuesday that Government Operations Agency Secretary Yolanda Richardson will take over handling the state's COVID-19 vaccine distribution, with the intent of streamlining the process and expanding where and when people can get vaccinated.
The state plans to work with local public health officials and third-party health care entities to create a "vaccine administration network," according to Richardson, who emphasized the state's need for more doses and medical personnel who are trained to administer them.
"We want to make sure that nothing slows down the administration of vaccines other than the pace in which (the) vaccine arrives in the state," Richardson said Jan. 26 during a briefing on the pandemic.
State officials plan to partner with a third-party administrator to oversee the vaccine network and ensure health care systems across the state are moving in sync to vaccinate the state's 40 million residents.
Roughly 2.6 million coronavirus vaccine doses have been administered statewide as of Tuesday, according to the California Department of Public Health, and 4.7 million doses have been shipped to local health departments and multicounty health systems like Kaiser Permanente.
State and local officials, including those in Santa Clara County, have also lamented just how much demand is outpacing supply so far, pleading with the federal government to make more doses available and the timing of vaccine shipments more predictable.
"We continue to hear that being a problem, predictability's certainly something we would all like to know," Richardson said.
Also on Tuesday, President Joe Biden's administration announced plans to boost the federal government's weekly vaccine dose allocation to states by 16%, give governors a three-week allocation forecast and purchase approximately 200 million more doses from vaccine developers Pfizer and Moderna.
The increase in allocation would make some 10 million doses available to states each week. Richardson said it is still unknown what California's share of that allocation will be.
"But we are grateful for any additions that we get in the vaccine so that we can definitely meet more of the supply needs that we know have been a challenge for our providers," she said.
Shift to age-based vaccine distribution
On Monday, Jan. 25, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the state will change its vaccine distribution hierarchy to an age-based system, once all health care workers, people over age 65, food and agriculture workers, teachers and school staff members are vaccinated.
The age-based system "will allow us to scale up much more quickly and get vaccines to impacted communities much more expeditiously," Newsom said.
Newsom argued that the state's current average number of vaccinations per day puts the state on track to meet President Biden's goal of 100 million vaccinations across the country in his first 100 days in office.
The state would only have to average around 110,000 vaccinations per day to meet that goal, Newsom noted.
"Even if things were static — they will not be — but even if things were static, we would more than exceed the goal that was laid out by the Biden administration," Newsom said.
Newsom also acknowledged the state's lackluster vaccination rate so far, ranking in the bottom half of states by the percentage of vaccine doses administered.
Around 130,000 state residents are being vaccinated each day as of Jan. 15, according to the California Department of Public Health. As of Jan. 17, roughly 3.2 million vaccine doses have been shipped to local health departments and multicounty health care systems.
Public health officials in many counties, including some in the Bay Area, have argued they don't have access to enough doses to efficiently vaccinate large numbers of people.
Likewise, the state's original framework of which demographics to vaccinate and when likely contributed to the lag, Newsom said.
"We realize we have got to increase throughput here," he said. "While we are proud of the framework we put out ... we recognize it has advantages and it has disadvantages as it relates to speed and efficiency."
The state also plans to reallocate some vaccine doses that go unused to ensure every possible dose is utilized.
"We have tripled our rate of administration of the vaccine," Newsom said, noting that daily vaccinations were at just 43,459 on Jan. 4. "We're just getting going."
Comprehensive COVID-19 coverage
View interactive charts tracking the spread of the coronavirus in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties online at paloaltoonline.atavist.com/tracking-the-coronavirus. Find a comprehensive collection of coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by The Almanac and its sister publications, Palo Alto Online, and the Mountain View Voice, at tinyurl.com/c19-Almanac.
CalMatters and Bay City News Service contributed to this report.
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