More than 4,500 no-shows for COVID-19 vaccine appts. at Santa Clara County sites

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- In the South Bay, thousands of people didn't show up for their COVID-19 vaccine appointment last week in Santa Clara County. The good news is that none of those doses went to waste, but county officials say the act of not canceling an appointment can still have negative effects on the vaccine rollout.

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"It helps us to have a predictable supply and demand curve, and a predictable experience for people coming to the sites, to avoid those really long waits that can result from us trying to maximize our capacity against the no-show rate," said Dr. Jennifer Tong, Santa Clara Valley Medical Center Chief Associate Medical Officer.

Like many essential workers throughout the valley, Orient Express manager Chi Pham is patiently waiting his turn to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

"They could be sick, or not sick, so I'm very nervous," said Pham.

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The state's largest single health care provider, Kaiser Permanente, is lagging well behind other systems when it comes to vaccinating even their oldest and most vulnerable patients.

Pham worries about the interactions he has with customers on a daily basis, and was disappointed to learn that there were more than 4,500 no-shows last week at the COVID-19 vaccination sites operated by the county. That number was roughly 10% of the available appointments.

"I'm really upset about that, because if they sign up, they have to go there to get it," said Pham.

County officials say they already adjust for anticipated no-show rates by overscheduling what they think their maximum capacity is. Last week, they overbooked by 10%, so no doses actually went to waste. While it's hard to pinpoint the exact reasons behind the no-shows, the county believes some people make multiple appointments or sign up before they're even eligible.

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"When they have an appointment they're not planning to keep, it feels like only one appointment and probably not that big of a deal, but in reality, those individual appointments really add up," said Dr. Tong.

County officials say those who have signed up, but are concerned about following through, should still show up to get their questions answered by staff.

Tong added, "They can decide at that time if they don't want to proceed, but at least by coming, we would have an opportunity to address any hesitancy that they might be having."

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This comes as the county expands its community engagement team, who are visiting businesses and neighborhoods in some of the areas hardest hit by the virus. Vaccine education is a key component.

"Hearing from a trusted person what your options are for testing, vaccination, how to keep you and your family safe, is going to be, frankly, our secret weapon," said county supervisor Cindy Chavez. "We've got to get everyone across the finish line, everybody who's interested in being vaccinated, we've got to get them vaccinated."

Moving forward, the county hopes the public will think about the bigger picture, and to do their part by canceling any appointments they don't intend to keep. Not doing so could slow down the rollout and prevent the county from moving to another tier.

"Hopefully I will get the vaccine as soon as I can, so I can protect me and also protect the customer," said Pham.

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