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California health care providers begin vaccinating high-risk patients

Health care systems around California are starting to notify high-risk patients that they're up next for a COVID-19 vaccine.

SACRAMENTO COUNTY, Calif. — Many Sacramentans want to receive one of the COVID-19 vaccines but with a tiered system and unclear instructions on exactly how or when they’re eligible for a shot, they’re left exposed.

On Tuesday, it was announced that mass vaccination sites, including CalExpo, will be used to help speed up distribution. And over the weekend health care providers notified patients they would begin administering vaccines as they moved through tiers and became available.

Here’s where the Sacramento County Public Health Department and local hospitals stand on their vaccine rollouts.

Sacramento County Public Health

Sacramento County Public Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye said the county is coordinating with the state to distribute vaccines. She said each week the state tells the county health department how many vaccines they’ll receive. The county is responsible for dividing the vaccines and telling the state how many to give to providers. 

Dr. Olivia Kasirye said the county has received 44,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. She said about 16,000 came directly to the county public health department and the rest went to area hospitals.

“Right now we’re in the process of trying to make sure we distribute all the doses that we currently have by the end of this week,” she said. “We are working with the hospitals. We also have additional partners in pharmacies as well as some of the federally qualified health care centers. They’re all preparing to make sure we get the vaccine out.”

Dr. Kasirye said one of the challenges they had initially was that they could only allocate vaccines to providers that were registered in the state database. 

“Initially, we had only very few that had been able to get through the registration process. But now we have at least over 45 so that will help us a lot in terms of getting vaccines out. The more providers that are able to get the vaccine and give the vaccinations, the quicker it will be to get everyone through Phase 1A,” she said. She said they expect to complete Phase 1A at the end of the month and move on to Phase 1B.   

Dr. Kasirye said CalExpo started distributing vaccines last week. She said they estimate vaccinating 500 people per day with plans to expand.

UC Davis Health

UC Davis Health has opened a vaccination clinic for patients and unaffiliated health care workers throughout Sacramento County. The health system is coordinating with the Sacramento County Public Health Department.

“We’re excited to provide that service to the county for unaffiliated health care workers but also and very importantly to our patients over the age of 75,” said Chief Medical Officer Dr. Doug Kirk. 

Dr. Kirk said they’re starting with high-risk patients over the age of 75 who have comorbidities before moving on to less risky patients until everyone is vaccinated. He said the health system identified more than 500 patients who were our “very highest risk patients that were part of our primary care group, in a transplant clinic or cancer center.”

“We contacted them through our MyUCDavis portal or ones who don’t have that we called them directly,” he said. 

Dr. Kirk also said patients will be able to make appointments in the future. 

“Once we identify that you’re an appropriate patient to be vaccinated, we will send you a ticket and with that ticket you can find your time to be vaccinated,” Dr. Kirk said. 

He said UC Davis patients can also send their doctor a message through the online portal, letting their physician know that they fall into a vulnerable group and want more information on getting vaccinated. 

Dignity Health

The health care provider has completed its first phase of vaccinations, which includes physicians, staff, ambulatory clinic physicians, and staff, according to Dr. John Gisla, medical director of quality & value operations.

"At this time everyone with Mercy Medical Group and in Dignity Health has been offered the vaccine or scheduled for it. We're very anxious to move on to our patients," Dr. Gisla said.

He said starting this week they will be contacting patients in their electronic medical record who are 75 years and older with special attention to patients with other medical conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, and the like.

"We'll be reaching out to them by telephone and offering them appointments," Dr. Gisla said. 

He said their pilot clinics are scheduled to run Thursday evening at Mercy San Juan Hospital, Friday evening at Methodist Hospital, and Saturday at both hospitals. They hope by the end of the weekend to have vaccinated 400 patients, Gisla said. 

He said Mercy/Dignity is relying on their collaboration with the Sacramento County Public Health Department to vaccinate other health care workers too.

"Those populations who are included because of what they do, so the EMTs, paramedics, nursing home workers, doctor's offices," Dr. Gisla said. "The county will be reaching out to employers such as fire departments, police departments, and the like to offer them appointments at these county-run clinics."

Dr. Gisla said ultimately they want to be able to distribute vaccines from the actual medical clinics that patients are used to visiting.

Kaiser Permanente

In an emailed statement to ABC10, Kaiser Permanente said:

“Kaiser Permanente is committed to the fair and equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccine as quickly as possible based on vaccine allocations we receive. 

We are following prioritization guidelines from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the Centers for Disease Control. We anticipate that expansion of vaccination to prioritized groups of patients in the general public will occur as vaccine supply increases and federal and state guidelines are issued, and we are making the appropriate preparations. We anticipate using our normal methods to provide information about vaccine eligibility and appointments for vaccination. 

As of today, Kaiser Permanente has vaccinated more than 57,000 people that are part of Tier 1A in our Northern California Region, with more vaccinations happening every day. We have not yet moved to those in the 1B tier, as we are still vaccinating those in 1A.  We encourage members to check kp.org/covid for updates on vaccine availability. 

The vaccines will help end this pandemic, and we are glad our patients, staff, and physicians are interested in receiving the vaccine as the supply becomes more plentiful.”

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WATCH ALSO: Gov. Newsom announces mass vaccination sites including Cal Expo, Dodger Stadium

The vaccinations will be by appointment only and only for people in the tier the state is vaccinating.