SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California has seen a slow rollout of the new coronavirus vaccines, a logistical nightmare, as it sees it’s worse coronavirus surge yet.
“Its gone too slowly,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a press conference Monday.
The state began receiving the Pfizer vaccine in mid December. So far, more than 454,000 doses have made it to arms, but counties are sitting on roughly 1.29 million doses, with another 911,000 doses on the way.
“So, we’ve got work to do on this,” Newsom said. “We’ll work through that holiday and obviously as we move into January we want to see things accelerate and we want to…see things go much faster.”
A lead member of the state’s coronavirus vaccine advisory committee has growing concerns that a majority of the vaccines could be wasted.
"There are literally hundreds of thousands of doses out there sitting in warehouses while you have nursing home residents and staff…who are waiting to be vaccinated,” Mike Wasserman told ABC 7 in the Bay Area.
So, what’s the hold up? Health officials at both the state and county levels say a number of mostly logistical problems. For instance, any agency requesting a vaccine has to register and be approved through a state database. San Joaquin County’s Health Officer Dr. Maggie Parks says that process has led to a bottleneck. Other reasons cited include scheduling and simply that there were fewer healthcare workers onsite due to the holidays.
“The holiday season and the lack of hospitals’ willingness to receive more doses slowed down the redistribution process for a couple of weeks. We have picked up speed and have had multiple deliveries in the past few days,” a statement from a San Joaquin County spokesperson wrote.
“We are working aggressively to accelerate our pace,” Newsom said. “We have said this from day one, it’s like a flywheel. First 10, 15 days we’re gonna start building pace, gonna start building up and you’re gonna start more rapid distribution of this vaccine. I can assure you of that now.”
So, what are state leaders doing to speed up rollout? California’s Department of Public Health expanded which healthcare workers can receive the vaccines on this week, a day prior the California Department of Public Affairs expanded the list of who could administer the vaccines to include dentists.
Despite the slow start, California’s top health official Dr. Mark Ghaly says California has administered more vaccines than any other state in the country.
“We are working with county public health authorities to determine how the state can support accelerated vaccination administration," Dr. Ghaly said in a statement. "We have also further clarified guidelines that expand the availability of vaccines to a larger range of health care workers.”
Ghaly said it’s a pace on par nationally and one the state of California is working to ramp up.