PLEASANT HILL (KPIX 5) — Some top state health officials are saying it could take until June just to vaccinate people 65 and older in California, adding to the COVID-19 frustrations Bay Area health departments are currently facing.
For anyone wondering how the vaccine rollout is going in Contra Costa County, they can now see for themselves. The county’s new data page shows the plodding effort to increase the pace.READ MORE: Pandemic-Inspired Art Greets Visitors to Newly-Reopened San Francisco Museums
As of Thursday, about 4,000 shots were being administered per day. Over in San Francisco, the situation looks less promising with even lower numbers.
“I think if you drill down into each individual county, you will find challenges that may vary somewhat,” infectious disease expert and Stanford Professor Dean Winslow told KPIX 5.
Winslow also has a military background and still serves in the National Guard. He says the slow effort to get distribution moving — like the construction of this site at City Collège in San Francisco today — was predictable.
“Frankly, our healthcare system in the United States is fragmented,” said Winslow. “We have large integrated systems, like Kaiser, on one hand.”
On the other hand, there are millions of people who get healthcare from smaller providers. In fact, there are 2,500 different vaccine providers across California. Your county health department is just one of them. The process of getting temperature and time-sensitive vaccine delivered to so many partners would be complicated enough even if there weren’t issues with shortages.READ MORE: East Bay Entrepreneurs Eager for Red Tier Easing to Boost Business
“There seems to be a discrepancy between how much is being delivered and how much is getting in people’s arms,” said Dr. John Swartzberg of UC Berkeley.
Even the reporting numbers are unreliable right now, given that they’re coming from so many sources. Getting the system to run smoothly will take time.
“I do think that things are going to get better, but it’s going to take at least a good month for us to perceive some improvement in the logistics,” said Swartzberg. “So just be prepared to deal with frustration like we talked about last time.”
Winslow agreed that solving the problems faced by health officials would also require input from others.
“We actually have consultancy groups that are experts in supply-chain logistics, things like that, that are actively working on these problems,” he said.
There is also the added complication built into the early vaccines themselves, particularly Pfizer’s doses, which have strict requirements for storage, when they get used, and when the second dose is given. All of that requires additional logistic precision.MORE NEWS: UC Researchers Find North Coast Kelp Forest Nearly Wiped Out
“If we had something like a diphtheria-tetanus shot, and any time a patient comes in, any day they want it, you just pull it out of the refrigerator, it’s good for months,” Swartzberg explains. “So of course, a vaccine that
is so fickle like Pfizer’s — and a little less fickle but still fickle like Moderna’s — presents another logistical hurdle to get over.”