There are a lot of unanswered questions about the COVID-19 vaccine and how it will be distributed in Santa Cruz County....
Only about 35% of the COVID-19 vaccine doses that have arrived in California have been administered so far, a rate Gov. Gavin Newsom acknowledged Monday was “not good enough” as he pledged new funding and efforts aimed at ramping up the rollout.
California has received just under 1.3 million vaccine doses, but only a touch more than 454,000 people have actually received the shots, according to figures Newsom presented.
Though he has regularly maintained that distribution of the long-awaited vaccines is “like a flywheel, the first 10, 15 days we’re going to slowly start building pace, then you’re going to start seeing more rapid distribution,” he said the process had, to this point, “gone too slowly, I know, for many of us.”
“We want to see 100% of what’s received immediately administered in people’s arms, and so that’s a challenge,” he said during a briefing. “It’s a challenge across this country — it’s a challenge, for that matter, around the rest of the world. But that’s not an excuse.”
An additional 611,500 vaccine doses are slated to be shipped to California soon. Newsom said the budget proposal he would submit to the state Legislature later this week included roughly $300 million to support vaccination efforts by bankrolling logistics, a public education campaign and other needs.
He also pledged to unveil more details “on some new strategies to deal with some of the roadblocks” in the coming days.
One hiccup that has emerged in the vaccine rollout has been making sure doses don’t go to waste. The two therapeutics that are available in the U.S. — one from Pfizer-BioNTech and the other from Moderna — are packaged in vials that contain multiple doses, and each vial has a limited shelf life after it’s opened.
Though California’s initial doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are earmarked for frontline healthcare workers and residents of long-term-care facilities such as nursing homes, “we are actively working to clarify [and] make sure all of the vaccinators understand what to do with those remaining doses when they open up a set of vials,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s Health and Human Services secretary.
The goal, he added Monday, is “really to encourage the continued sort of drumbeat of getting people vaccinated but while making sure that they’re still doing as much as they can to target the most vulnerable, the most exposed, those who’ve been prioritized.”
That’s not to say that it’s open season, however. State officials have pledged to punish those who try to abuse their power or position to jump into the vaccination queue before their appointed time. When it comes to enforcement, Newsom said, “we’re just looking for gross negligence: people that are skipping the line that know they shouldn’t be skipping the line, people taking care of people of means and influence, not the rest of us.”
“We have plenty of people that want to take that shot,” he said, “and the key is to make sure that, while we are enforcing the rules of the road, we’re not enforcing against just common sense and the energy of someone who says, ‘Look, I don’t want to waste this dose. Why don’t I get it to someone?’ ”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.