Bay Area health officials stress patience, vigilance as vaccine eligibility opens up

ByLeslie Brinkley KGO logo
Friday, March 26, 2021
Local officials worry about vaccine supply as eligibility opens up
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Despite the governor's announcement regarding the expansion of vaccine eligibility, officials in the Bay Area say they're still waiting for more supply from the state in order to fully utilize their capacity.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Governor Newsom announced that on April 1 everyone 50 and over will be eligible for a vaccine and on and April 15 anyone 16 and over will be eligible.

"So in just a few weeks there will be no rules, no limitations as it relates to the ability to get a vaccine administered," said Newsom on Thursday.

RELATED: California to expand vaccination eligibility to everyone 16 and older starting April 15

Despite the governor's announcement regarding the expansion of vaccine eligibility, officials in the Bay Area say they're still waiting for more supply from the state in order to fully utilize their capacity.

"Being eligible and actually being able to get the vaccine are not the same things," said acting San Francisco health officer, Dr. Susan Philip.

In Marin, county spokesperson Laine Hendricks explained, "The concern is that the public's expectations are going to be mismatched with reality."

In the South Bay, Santa Clara County testing and vaccine officer Dr. Marty Fenstersheib says, "We really just want to caution people to please continue to be patient."

VIDEO: Some Bay Area officials worried about vaccine supply as eligibility opens up

The county has the capacity to vaccinate more than 200,000 people a week but can only do about a third of that right now because of limited supply. But with millions of doses expected to be added to California's inventory in the coming weeks, county officials are hoping the Bay Area will receive its fair share.

Fenstersheib added, "I have no idea how many vaccines that means, but it's been a production issue that all of these manufacturers have not had enough vaccines to send out."

Dr. Philip and Hendricks say San Francisco and Marin counties are prepared to exponentially increase vaccine administration.

"Staffing, operations, that sort of thing, we feel pretty confident about. All we really need is the supply," said Hendricks.

RELATED: These California counties are way ahead in COVID-19 vaccinations

California's vaccine supply is expected to almost double from 1.8 million doses per week to three million doses per week.

Dr. Philip says San Francisco has the capacity to vaccinate 20,000 people per day, but for the past two weeks, the city has only been allocated 16,000 doses per week. "It is very possible that we will see those numbers increase, but we can not plan or predict or communicate to the public the way we would like, because we don't have that insight right now," said Philip, who added, "people may have to wait for their appointment unless we get a large influx of vaccine."

Kate Larsen: "There are still a ton of essential workers who have not been vaccinated and now are concerned they're going to be shut out of the process with this huge influx of eligibility. How do you reconcile that?"

Dr. Susan Philip: "We've built a very robust structure to administer up to 20,000 vaccines per day that are going to be distributed throughout the city at our mass vaccination sites, health care providers, and pharmacies. And the vaccine that we control with the city is about a third of that total vaccine. We are going to focus on the hardest-hit communities and these frontline workers as you said."

RELATED: AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson: Breaking down the differences between coronavirus vaccines

This week, Santa Clara county officials announced a new deal with the state that will allow them to retain local control of vaccine distribution. However, 40% of the state's doses are being set aside for low-income ZIP codes based on the Healthy Places Index, which doesn't account for the Bay Area's high cost of living. This means that the majority of doses will still go to Southern California. Infectious disease experts say it's important for the community to remain vigilant as they await their turn to be vaccinated.

"It's very important that we maintain discipline with the physical mitigating measures that we know have reduced the transmission of COVID-19 until we get up to the point where at least 75 or 80% or more of the United States population is immunized," said Dr. Dean Winslow, an infectious diseases expert and professor at Stanford School of Medicine.

In the East Bay, Contra Costa County is already vaccinating those 50 and up. Officials said it was possible they would open access to vaccines to all adults even before the state does on April 15.

As part of the vaccine rollout, the county, in conjunction with the city of Concord and Kaiser will be opening up a mass vaccine site in the parking lot of the water park Six Flags Hurricane Harbor next week.

Drive-through vaccines Will be available to those with appointments starting March 30. Eventually, the location should be able to vaccinate 15,000 people a week.

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