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California's rocky COVID-19 vaccine rollout dogged by poor communication, forecasting

Laura J. Nelson and Maya Lau, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES – California is failing to provide crucial information about COVID-19 vaccine supply levels to local officials, complicating efforts to schedule appointments and contributing to temporary closures of vaccination sites.

Officials running local vaccination programs in multiple counties say they are not being told how many doses they will receive over the next three weeks, which is key data they need to keep vaccine sites open and running smoothly.

President Joe Biden promised last month that his administration would provide a "reliable three-week supply look-ahead" in an effort to improve the transparency and efficiency of the country's rocky vaccine rollout.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said he learns every Tuesday morning how many doses the Golden State will receive over the next three weeks. But state officials have yet to share those numbers with many local, city and county leaders, making it difficult to create appointments and plan for the administration of second doses.

"Every vaccine planner right now, we all have nerves in our stomach. We're nervous about it," said Joe Prado, community health division manager for the Fresno County Department of Public Health. "We would all like to have a three-week window, but until then we will just continue to do it week to week."

A California Department of Public Health spokesman did not answer questions about why the state has not shared three-week previews with local health officials. Instead, he said the question is "no longer relevant" because the state is transitioning to a new vaccine distribution model led by Blue Shield of California, under a contract that started Feb. 15.

 

Newsom, speaking Sunday at a mobile vaccination clinic in Inglewood, said counties will start getting a three-week look-ahead this week as part of the Blue Shield partnership, but he did not elaborate.

A spokeswoman for Blue Shield directed questions to state health officials, who did not respond.

As of Monday, local officials said they still were not getting the advance information.

The communication problems come as winter storms have hammered much of the U.S., delaying shipments of already-scarce vaccine doses to California and other states. Lack of predictability, coupled with ongoing dose shortages, have forced temporary closures at several mass vaccination sites, including Dodger Stadium, Moscone Center in San Francisco and Petco Park in San Diego.

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