Blue Shield officially takes over California's COVID-19 vaccine distribution network

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Today California is transitioning its COVID-19 vaccination system to health care provider Blue Shield.

The Oakland-based health insurance company is technically acting as a third party administrator. The transition begins today but it won't start allocating vaccine doses until Thursday.

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"Here's what concerns me. The state has had months to develop plans around vaccination. And now we have a new company coming in and it's not clear what preparation is going on," said Dr. Mike Wasserman, Member of the California vaccine advisory committee

Dr. Wasserman is concerned that implementing a new system now will set vaccine distribution back.

"There's supposed to be an algorithm for determining who gets vaccinated and we've heard that the state is going to continue to be responsible for that algorithm. Well. How do you coordinate the state's role and Blue Shield's role?" said Dr. Wasserman.

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Experts are concerned over Blue Shield of California's plan to vaccinate the state, saying it lacks transparency is how they created their algorithm. There's also concern over the "Network Incentive Payments" clause in their contract.

In January, Governor Newsom announced the goal was for Blue Shield to help expedite the vaccine roll out. Blue Shield says they hope 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 March. Today Governor Newsom was hopeful.

"9.1 million vaccinations have been administered in the state of California. Positivity rate that should make everyone feel a bit more positive about where we are. Down 2.3% today," said Governor Newsom.

To accomplish their goal Blue Shield says "Providers will receive a three-week allocation plan so they can plan appointments effectively. The supply each provider receives may be adjusted during each three-week period, based on how the provider meets the goals of the program."

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Dr. Wasserman says previous history with Blue Shield makes him and his colleagues skeptical.

"Back in April the state handed over sort of responsibility for testing and to this day testing in long-term care is still less than ideal. Who did they state give that responsibility to? Blue Shield. I just hope that this is not a repeat of what happened with the testing handoff." said Dr. Wasserman.

For this handoff, Blue Shield will begin taking over counties in the Central Valley as part of their first wave and move to Southern California counties and some of Bay Area counties second and then proceed to cover the entire Bay Area region as part of their third and final wave.

Blue Shield says their goal is to be fully in charge of the state's vaccination system by the end of March.

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