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Doctor explains why vaccination distribution in California is lagging

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SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – Why is California lagging behind in its vaccination program to deal with the pandemic?

“It feels really bad right now because of the fact that we’re in the midst of the worst time in this pandemic,” Dr. John Swartzberg said.

KRON4 spoke with Dr. John Swartzberg with UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health, and UCSF’s joint medical program to sort out – why vaccination distribution seems so riddled with problems.  

He says in many ways, it was doomed from the start.

When the vaccines first got approval, the rollout wasn’t adequately funded leaving massive states, like California, behind the eight ball before the first shot was taken. 

“Health economists and people looking at the distribution of the vaccine, back in September estimated that the 50 states needed at least $8.4 billion to really get a program up and running and they needed at least 2 or 3 months to get that program up and running. The states were given by the federal government back in October about $400 million. There lies the biggest piece of the problem,” Dr. Swartzberg said. 

That enormous gap in funding, meant critical resources to pay for logistics, people, and places to manage the initial small number of vaccines that had to be carefully transported and administered and documented through websites wasn’t there and is still not there. 

He adds, adding more people to the eligibility list when plans are not in place, isn’t helping the problem either.

“All of a sudden we added people who are between 65 and 75 to the line of people wanting the vaccine right now. When we don’t get enough vaccine and we don’t have the logistics worked out to get the vaccine in people’s arms,” Dr. Swartzberg said.

So what’s going to take to fix it all? Dr. Swartzberg says time and more money and says, that seems to be on its way, if not slowly.   

In the meantime, he adds, he knows it is all very frustrating but reminds himself of this fact.

“What I would say to somebody and what I say to myself is, boy I wish every body could get vaccinated tomorrow and I pray these vaccines work as well as we think they will and that’s going to get us back to the way we want to live so much more quickly. Well, it’s not going to run that smoothly, but it’s going to happen and you know, if it doesn’t happen in June, it may happen in August,”Dr. Swartzberg said.

He says at least there is a vaccine. For a while in this pandemic, there didn’t seem to be any real end in sight.

Now, at least we know how to stave COVID-19 from spreading with masks and social distancing, and with the vaccine in time, we can beat this.

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