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San Mateo County health officer criticizes COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Bay Area

SAN MATEO COUNTY, Calif. (KRON) – On the Peninsula, confusion over the COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

San Mateo County’s health officer published a lengthy statement criticizing the rollout and lack of transparency from the state and the federal government and like other Bay Area counties, there’s more demand than supply.

It’s not the first time the county’s doctor has criticized state officials about handling the pandemic – back in the summer, he called the state’s “Watch List Flawed” this time he’s listing issues on the vaccine rollout.

In the latest statement from San Mateo County health officer Dr. Scott Morrow, the first in nearly a month, citing challenges of the vaccine distribution in the county while dealing with a great COVID-19 surge.

Dr. Morrow was not available for an interview Wednesday.

In his statement he outlines concerns, confusion, and criticism about the rollout and explains the three major routes the COVID-19 vaccine is distributed in San Mateo County:

  1. The federal government’s partnership with CVS and Walgreens to distribute to congregate-care facilities like nursing homes.
  2. Large health systems like Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Health
  3. The county’s health department that receives between 100 to a few thousand a week – a small number of doses, according to Dr. Morrow.

“Part of the distribution problem relates to the fact that we didn’t have time to set up the sites we needed, we didn’t have time to hire the people and get them trained that we needed when the vaccine started coming in,” Dr. John Swartzberg said. 

Dr. John Swartzberg, infectious disease expert at UC Berkeley says while Bay Area counties and the state are dealing with supply issues, the problems will smooth out.

“There’s going to be two vaccines approved, one shot each opposed to two, those are going to get approved probably February or March,” Dr. Swartzberg said. 

As of Tuesday, San Mateo County health officials say nearly 26,000 Moderna vaccines have been distributed, more than 22,000 administered.

The county is still in phase one – only vaccinating healthcare workers and those who live and work in long-term care.

There have been talks with big health systems to turn this drive-thru vaccination clinic into a mass site.

In the meantime, Dr. Swartzberg is feeling optimistic in the long run.

“Keep your seat belts on, it’s really a bumpy ride and try to just put up with it because it’s not going to be easy, it’s going to be frustrating but we are going to get there,” Dr. Swartzberg said. 

Still, a lot of issues to iron out here, many health officials and experts are looking to see how the Biden administration will handle the pandemic – so far Biden’s COVID team plans to release nearly every available dose of COVID vaccines to states and that shouldn’t cause any supply issues down the road.

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