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How Santa Clara County is dealing with the state’s slow COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan

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SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Calif. (KRON) — The COVID-19 vaccine rollout has been slow in California and in Santa Clara County, nearly two million residents are still waiting to get vaccinated. 

Less than half of the county’s allotted COVID-19 vaccines have been administered since last month when healthcare workers at skilled nursing facilities received the first doses. 

“Like everyone we are trying to respond to seemingly ever-changing guidance about who gets the vaccine and when, where and how that happens,” said Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian. 

“We’re all struggling initially with a well-intended effort to make sure the right people were at the front of the line, but it was a cumbersome process,” Simitian added. “It got in the way frankly of moving the vaccine out to as many people as possible as quickly as possible.”

The vaccine distribution process has left many of the county’s nearly two million residents anxiously waiting to get vaccinated as the county is working feverishly to get everyone who is 16 years and older vaccinated with the long-term goal to have 85% of the county’s population vaccinated to reach herd immunity. 

Currently, the county is following the governor’s tiered system with Tier 1 of Phase 1A, vaccinating health care workers highest at risk of being exposed to COVID-19 still slowly underway. 

“The challenges we’re having is that the rules about what the federal and state government is allowing us to do, like who they’re allowing us to vaccinate, in what order, is kind of a changing landscape,” said Supervisor Cindy Chavez. 

“And second is that we’re trying to get as many vaccines as we can, so as we’re setting up these mass vaccination sites, we can vaccinate as many people as possible.”

Part of the challenge in administering vaccines is confirming vaccination sites and scheduling vaccinations. 

For private or non-profit healthcare providers including Stanford Healthcare, El Camino Health and others —  get their vaccines through the county but oversee distribution on their own. 

Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Health, which represent about one million county residents get their own vaccines from the state and oversee distribution themselves. 

In an effort to get more vaccines rolled out, Supervisors Chavez and Simitian proposed an emergency ordinance that would require every hospital and clinic in the county to produce a written plan and timelines for the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

“None of that information about who gets how much vaccine comes to the county, so our health officer created a local health order that says for everyone in the county we want to know how much vaccine you’ve received, how vaccine you’ve used, and how much vaccine is going unused,” said Chavez. 

“Our objective is the more we know, the more we feel like we’ll be able to coordinate and the faster we’re going to get to the 1.5 million people who are relying on us as a system, the public and private system, to have access and get their vaccinations.”

The county Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the emergency ordinance at Tuesday’s meeting.

Supervisor Simitian tells KRON4 News although the emergency ordinance is not necessarily aimed at getting more vaccines in people’s arms, but, collecting data helps fill major gaps in vaccine distribution. 

“Bottom line we need to know who’s doing what and make sure that there are no gaps in the system,” said Simitian.  

“And with so many different players in different parts of the county, particularly in a large county like ours, making sure that everyone shares their plan.”

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