Anxiety, confusion remain over COVID-19 vaccine rollout at mass vaccination site at CCSF

ByMatt Boone KGO logo
Monday, January 25, 2021
Coronavirus: Hundreds vaccinated at SF City College
Hundreds of San Franciscans were able to get vaccinated against COVID-19 Friday morning at San Francisco City College.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Seventy lucky people were able to secure a dose at the end of the day at the mass vaccination site outside the City College of San Francisco on Friday, according to Elizabeth Fernandez, a spokesperson for UCSF.

Though, that is not their intent for the site.

"We're urging everybody to make appointments, not to hang out," said Fernandez.

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It's the first of three mass vaccination sites in the city.

In total, Fernandez said 540 people were vaccinated on Friday, day one of the site's operation. She said their goal is to vaccinate 600 people per day there.

On Saturday, the word was out that extra doses might be available for people who are eligible, but had been unsuccessful securing a coveted appointment online.

"A nurse came forward and said if they have extra doses at the end of the day, they are happy to vaccinate people 75 and older even if they don't have an appointment," said a woman who only wanted to be identified as Chris.

She said she is not eligible but came with several of her friends who are.

But after waiting it out, "my friends were turned away," she said.

Others came out of confusion and desperation.

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"I was thinking she might get in the City College program, but I didn't get any answers," said Stella Chen, who came by the site twice on Saturday to see if her 87-year-old mother could get a shot.

She said she had received a text message, alerting her that her mother was eligible. But that wasn't enough.

"Even though you do the notification, you are eligible for my mom, it still doesn't finish," she said.

She said she was also turned away and directed back to the UCSF website portal for patients.

"If they could clarify a little more that would be better," said Chen.

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"It's a catastrophe and it was a catastrophe waiting to happen," said Dr. John Swartzberg, Professor Emeritus at the UC Berkeley Department of Infectious Disease about the general rollout of the vaccine.

He points to a confluence of factors that are still making access challenging.

"Right now we are in a very difficult place because we don't have our logistics worked out and don't have an adequate pipeline of vaccine. And yet, everyone wants it and needs it now," said Swartzberg.

Adding more confusion, who is even eligible?

"When the Governor came out with anybody over 65 can get the vaccine I first started with Kaiser," said Lafayette resident Jennifer Brudigam.

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That was last Wednesday. By the weekend, she said she had almost given up on dealing with Kaiser when a friend sent her a text about Safeway in Danville offering vaccines.

"It was basically a link. You check you are over 65. I went from there and it gave me appointments. I just picked one," she said.

The website has now reverted back to "75 and older" but she said she was able to get her vaccine on Tuesday.

"I see it as just a fluke that I got through," she commented.

But a system built on flukes, says Doctor Swartzberg, is one that's ripe for disappointment.

"We're at the darkest moment of the pandemic and we see this light and the light is the vaccine and we can't get it to it. It's almost easier not to see the light," he said.

The video in the media player above is from a previous report.