Bay Area counties reach vaccine distribution agreement with state after concerns over Blue Shield plan

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Seven Bay Area counties formalized an agreement Wednesday with the State of California over COVID-19 vaccine distribution guidelines.

This comes after weeks of the counties expressing concerns over the state's proposal to have Blue Shield manage the distribution of coronavirus vaccines.

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Santa Clara, San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, and San Mateo counties were all able to secure the same COVID-19 vaccine distribution agreement with the state.
Under the agreement, individual counties will continue to be able to prioritize which groups and organizations in their communities get vaccine allotments instead of requiring individual clinics to negotiate with the state directly.

"If (community clinics) all had to end up signing an agreement on their own, it would be a bunch of silos, and if you can picture a bunch of silos without having any communication across these providers, then everybody would've been on their own," said Marty Fenstersheib, Santa Clara County's COVID-19 testing and vaccine officer.

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The memorandum of understanding also allows Santa Clara County to continue using its own vaccine appointment system, rather than being forced over to the state's MyTurn program, which has been plagued with technical problems. County officials say the agreement ensures that vaccines are being fairly distributed to community health providers, especially to areas hit hardest by the virus, without having to deal with Blue Shield as the middleman.

"We look at data from a census tract perspective as opposed to just zip codes and this allows us to really respond quickly," said Dolores Alvarado, chief executive officer of the Community Health Partnership, which represents 10 local health care organizations in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.
In recent weeks, Santa Clara County has been forced to limit first-dose appointments due to low supply from the state. County officials are hopeful more doses will be made available by mid-April, and say they're ready to utilize the infrastructure that's already been put in place.

"This new process will create the flexibility we need to make sure that we get every person in our community access to a vaccine quickly and safely," said Santa Clara County supervisor Cindy Chavez.

In January, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the goal was for Blue Shield to help expedite the vaccine roll out. Blue Shield says it hopes to increase the states capacity for delivery of COVID-19 vaccines from 1 million doses per week to 4 million doses per week by the end of May.

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