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New state program hopes to give COVID vaccine hesitancy a shot in the arm

The CalVax program will provide small, private doctors with up to $55,000 in grants to vaccinate.

STOCKTON, Calif — State health officials are hoping a new grant program is just what the doctor ordered to combat vaccine hesitancy.

Called CalVaxGrant, the state will provide up to $55,000 to small, private doctor's offices to provide a boost to those hesitant to get the COVID-19 shot.

"We do talk to the patients, try to explain the benefits of the vaccine and try to clear the doubts that they have," said Dr. Dheeraj Nandanoor, who runs a private practice in Stockton on E. March Lane.

A doctor in internal medicine, he said since March he has paid out of his own pocket $30,000 to $40,000 to fund vaccinations out of his Stockton office, which includes costs like refrigeration for storing the vaccines.

"Main motive, for which I came out and established a clinic, was to serve the community, have a patient interaction face to face," said Dr. Nandanoor.

That's the idea behind the CalVax program. Instead of mass vaccination sites, perhaps a personal doctor can convince the unvaccinated to get the shot.

The state public health department said the personal connection will provide communities with a "safe and familiar environment."

So far, Dr. Nandanoor has provided over 2,000 shots in his effort. Even so, he still has patients who doubt the vaccine, regardless of age.

As part of the program, practices can't employ more than 200 physicians. However, the grant can be divided up to five offices.

The state says as many as 4,000 state physician practices may receive the awards.

To apply, go to calvaxgrant.org.


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