State and local officials are starting to open mass vaccination centers to speed up coronavirus immunization and take in the millions of additional Californians who are now eligible for vaccines under the state’s new, freer guidelines.
Vaccination sites will open immediately this week at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, Petko Park in San Diego and Cal Expo in Sacramento, Gov. Gavin Newsum told a news briefing Monday. Some sites are also opening in the Gulf region, although for now they are for health professionals and only by appointment. But they are ready to be open to the general public in the next few weeks.
The opening of mass vaccination clinics marks the next stage in a historic immunization campaign that began just a month ago, when the first vaccines were injected into the hands of high-risk healthcare providers.
Since then, California has administered less than a third of the doses it has received from the federal government. This puts California at the bottom of the United States for vaccination levels and puts tremendous pressure on public health officials to speed up the process.
“We realize that the current strategy will not take us where we need to go as fast as we all need to go,”
As of Sunday, the most recent date for which data is available, about 783,000 of the 2.9 million doses sent to California counties and health care providers, have gone into the hands of the people, according to the state. This reaches 1,981 doses per 100,000 people.
By comparison, South Dakota and West Virginia, which have the highest vaccination rates, received 5,451 and 5,376 doses per 100,000 people, respectively, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Although many health professionals can be vaccinated through their employer or health care provider, district authorities hope that opening additional sites can speed up the process. In addition, Gulf counties suggest that within a few weeks, large-scale vaccination sites could begin immunizing people in the next phase, phase 1b, which in California includes about 15 million primary workers and people aged 65 and over.
The loose state guidelines announced on Thursday allow counties and health care providers to start vaccinating people in phase 1b now, as long as they have made vaccines available to everyone in phase 1a. But many Gulf counties and suppliers are still operating in Phase 1a and do not expect to be fully operational in Phase 1b by late January or early February.
In California, Phase 1a includes about 2.4 million health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities. Phase 1b, which the country has not yet completed, is likely to be divided into two levels. The first includes people working in education, emergency services and food and agriculture, as well as people over the age of 75. The second level includes people who work in critical production and transport, as well as people aged 65 and over and people without a home or imprisoned.
“Over the next two weeks, we will finish vaccinating the first groups of people and start vaccinating the next group,” said Dr. Ori Zvieli, deputy health officer in Contra Costa County. “We look at people over the age of 75 and key workers, such as teachers, childcare workers, police officers and food workers. As more residents become more suitable for immunizations, healthcare providers will let their members and patients know how to prescribe vaccines. “
The county announced Monday that Safeway’s location will begin offering photos this week and that additional Safeway and Rite Aid stores will join in the next two weeks. Contra Costa County declined to specify the location of Safeway, as it currently only vaccinates phase 1a health workers by appointment. The county notifies people who may be vaccinated there.
Most residents in the county will be vaccinated by their own health care provider, not at the county vaccination clinic, Tsveli said. Major health care providers, such as Kaiser Permanente and Sutter, will notify their patients when they have the right to make appointments for vaccinations, he said. Notifications are expected to begin before the end of the month.
On Monday, San Mateo County opened a mass vaccination center at a site that was previously used for coronavirus testing. Currently, the San Mateo Vaccination Clinic is only for healthcare professionals who need to make an appointment online and fill out an attestation form asking if they live in the county and work with patients in person, and advise them not to share forward the link to others. Upon arrival, they will need to show a photo ID.
In San Francisco, where most residents have private or public health insurance, the state health department will help get vaccines to other vulnerable residents who are not covered. Public health officials said they would work with private providers such as Kaiser to open larger vaccination sites.
Santa Clara County also vaccinates health care workers who are not patients in large health care systems by appointment. He plans to open an additional site at El Camino Health, which is set to begin online appointments on Tuesday and take pictures next week.
Catherine Ho is a staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: email@example.com Twitter: @Cat_Ho