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Blue Shield rollout to take place for San Joaquin, Stanislaus but questions linger

10 Central Valley counties will start onboarding to the Blue Shield vaccine delivery system on Monday.

STANISLAUS COUNTY, Calif — After an unexpected delay this past week, 10 Central Valley counties will start onboarding to a new vaccine delivery system with Blue Shield of California. It's an effort to build a stream-lined system that can schedule, deliver, and track vaccines delivered to California quickly and equitably, according to state officials. 

Blue Shield will be the state's vaccine network administrator, and they have contracted with providers across the state, focusing on providers who serve the Central Valley for Wave 1. 

"The enhanced network will build on the state's existing capacity and vaccination processes that are working well, while enhancing state oversight of the vaccine supply and accountability for all vaccine doses to ensure equitable access to vaccines for communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19," said Paul Markovich, president and CEO of Blue Shield of California. "The state will continue to have responsibility for allocating the vaccine to ensure Californians get the protection they need from COVID-19, and we are working diligently in support of those efforts."

The first wave kicks off on March 1, impacting Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties among others in the Central Valley.

Last week, onboarding for the rollout was delayed. In Stanislaus County, officials said they didn't know much about what to expect. 

“At this point, we’re not expecting much because we really don’t know much,” said Sheriff Jeff Dirkse, head for Emergency Services in Stanislaus County, earlier this week.

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Public health officials released additional information about the rollout on Friday. The new delivery system is expected to bring a uniform and state-directed eligibility criteria, which is meant to help do away with the confusion about who can get a vaccine from county to county.  

Blue Shield will also start making vaccine allocation recommendations, but the state will make the final call. Health officials said they'll continue to use the existing split, which prioritizes 70% of doses for seniors and the other 30% in the education, emergency services, and food and agriculture workers. Part of that allocation process will also include 10% of doses set aside for education and childcare workers.

Officials said the allocation criteria can change to reach equity targets and can be adjusted to reflect newly eligible populations.

However, for Dirkse, some clarity about what this rollout means for Stanislaus County is still needed. 

"I have not heard anything specific yet. It's still very unclear. They just use a lot more words to say that," Dirkse said in a message to ABC10 on Sunday.

On March 7, more counties will continue onboarding to the new system. By March 31, Blue Shield is expected to take full management responsibility for the statewide vaccine network and continue making vaccine allocation recommendations to the state.

Blue shield officials said having the data funnel through one system will help it make vaccine allocation recommendations as they build upon already existing vaccination clinics. It has partnered with a least 30 providers. Some county-level officials said they're cautiously optimistic.

"There's a lot of promises that are made, very publicly, that do not have the details or plan behind it," Dirkse said.

Full waves for the Blue Shield rollout can be found below:

Wave 1: Fresno, Imperial, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, Riverside, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Tulare

Wave 2: Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, El Dorado, Glenn, Inyo, Lake, Lassen, Los Angeles, Monterey, Nevada, Orange, Placer, Sacramento, San Benito, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Shasta, Sierra, Solano, Sonoma, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity, Tuolumne, Ventura

Wave 3: Alameda, Alpine, Contra Costa, Del Norte, Humboldt, Marin, Mariposa, Mendocino, Modoc, Mono, Napa, Plumas, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Siskiyou, Yolo, Yuba

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