State officials announced Tuesday that Government Operations Agency Secretary Yolanda Richardson will take over handling the state’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution, with the intent of streamlining the vaccination process and expanding where and when people can get vaccinated.
The state plans to work with local public health officials and third-party health care entities to create a “vaccine administration network,” according to Richardson, who emphasized the state’s need for more doses and medical personnel who are trained to administer them.
“We want to make sure that nothing slows down the administration of vaccines other than the pace in which vaccine arrives in the state,” Richardson said Tuesday during a briefing on the pandemic.
State officials plan to partner with a third-party administrator to oversee the vaccine network and ensure health care systems across the state are moving in sync to vaccinate the state’s 40 million residents.
In addition to the health care clinics, pharmacies, hospitals and mass-vaccination clinics that are currently offering shots, the state hopes to use pop-up and mobile vaccination sites to reach all corners of the state more effectively.
That third-party administrator has yet to be chosen, Richardson said, giving no timetable for when state officials may make that decision.
The vaccine network would also make use of the state’s vaccine information and scheduling tool, My Turn, which Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday.
My Turn is currently being piloted in Los Angeles and San Diego counties, but is expected to launch with full functionality statewide next month.
At that time, all state residents will be able to use the website to determine when they will be eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine, find a vaccination location and schedule an appointment.
For now, My Turn allows the state’s residents to sign up for email or test alerts when they are eligible to be vaccinated in their county or local health jurisdiction.
“As more and more people use it, we want to make sure that we continue to collect information on how we can make that the most user-friendly tool for Californians available,” Richardson said.
The biggest obstacle facing the state’s vaccine distribution goals remains a lack of enough doses to vaccinate all who are eligible.
Roughly 2.6 million coronavirus vaccine doses have been administered statewide as of Tuesday, according to the California Department of Public Health, and 4.7 million doses have been shipped to local health departments and multi-county health systems like Kaiser Permanente.
However, the state’s first phase of vaccination, consisting solely of health care workers and nursing home residents and staff, includes some 3 million people, who will all require two doses each of vaccine.
State and local officials have equally lamented just how much demand is outpacing supply so far, pleading with the federal government to make more doses available and the timing of vaccine shipments more predictable.
“We continue to hear that being a problem, predictability’s certainly something we would all like to know,” Richardson said.
On Tuesday, President Joe Biden’s administration announced plans to boost the federal government’s weekly vaccine dose allocation to states by 16 percent, give governors a three-week allocation forecast and purchase approximately 200 million more doses from vaccine developers Pfizer and Moderna.
The increase in allocation would make some 10 million doses available to states each week. Richardson said it is still unknown what California’s share of that allocation will be.
“But we are grateful for any additions that we get in the vaccine so that we can definitely meet more of the supply needs that we know have been a challenge for our providers,” she said.