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California's new COVID-19 vaccine system to start Monday

Patients enter Levi’s Stadium to receive Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines on Feb. 9 in Santa Clara. The 49ers arena is a vaccine distribution site for Santa Clara County residents 65 and older and is expected to inoculate up to 15,000 people per day once supplies become available. Photo by Anne Wernikoff/CalMatters.

State health officials announced Friday that all counties will start playing by the same rulebook on Monday, when Blue Shield will take over distribution of vaccines in California.

A patchwork of COVID-19 vaccine eligibility policies that differ from county to county has deeply frustrated Californians. So state officials hired Blue Shield, one of the state's largest health insurers, to streamline and manage the logistics of allocating vaccines to local health departments and other vaccine providers.

Blue Shield on Friday spelled out some of the details of how the new oversight will work. Ten counties — eight in the Central Valley plus Imperial and Riverside — will go first. This means that Blue Shield will make recommendations to state health officials on how many doses should go to each of those counties, and which providers should get them.

Blue Shield CEO Paul Markovich said that its recommendations for how much to distribute doses to each county will be based on priority groups in the state's vaccination tiers as well as the state's goals to provide equity for disadvantaged communities.

All 58 counties are expected to go through the transition by the end of March. The most populated counties, including Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange and San Bernardino, will be in the second wave, with most Bay Area counties in the third wave.

This infographic can also be viewed on Infogram.

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Earlier in February, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the state would revamp its vaccine distribution system, acknowledging that the fragmented, county-by-county approach was slow in getting vaccines to the public. Blue Shield is tasked with simplifying and speeding the process up.

The state's goal is to scale up to 4 million immunizations per week, up from the current 1.4 million per week.

"It's a high stakes issue, and if something goes wrong, the blowback to the Newsom administration would be severe," said Democratic political consultant Steve Maviglio, who served as press secretary to former Governor Gray Davis. "The governor has staked his fortunes on making this vaccination system work. He's trying to find the best way to make this a success."

Markovich said making the switch takes time. To frustrated counties that may fear losing control of vaccine distribution, he said, "Give us a chance to make this work."

What will the new system mean to Californians waiting for a vaccination and sorting through confusing options? Through this new system, state officials have promised consistency, where eligibility looks the same in all counties and distribution moves at a similar pace throughout the state.

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As counties move to the Blue Shield system, myturn.ca.gov and 1-833-422-4255 will become the main routes for scheduling appointments. Currently, signing up for appointments looks different in each county, with different websites and phone numbers, often confusing and frustrating residents.

State public health officials have set general eligibility guidelines but allowed counties and health providers some leeway in interpreting them. While all started by vaccinating the highest-priority health care workers and nursing home residents, they soon diverged.

Some counties vaccinated people 75 and older. Others set the threshold at 65 years. Some rural counties quickly vaccinated their priority groups and started vaccinating teachers and other essential workers, while some large, urban counties kept the focus on higher-risk seniors. The city of Long Beach, which has its own health department, moved ahead of most counties and already has vaccinated teachers.

As a result, a teacher working in one city might be immunized, while a teacher in the neighboring city or county might not -— even if they are teaching in person rather than online.

California currently prioritizes health care workers, long-term care residents and staff, people 65 and older, educators, child care workers, food industry employees, farmworkers and first responders. People with high-risk medical conditions such as cancer and heart disease will become eligible for vaccination starting on March 15, bringing the total number of eligible Californians to between 17 and 19 million.

About 8.2 million doses have been administered since COVID-19 vaccinations began in December. About 15 percent of all Californians have received at least one dose.

'The governor has staked his fortunes on making this vaccination system work. He's trying to find the best way to make this a success.'

-Steve Maviglio, Democratic political consultant

At a press conference in Fresno on Friday, Newsom said California would receive 1.58 million doses next week. That allocation is expected to grow when the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine comes on line.

So far, Blue Shield has contracted with at least 30 providers who will be getting shots into arms. These include pharmacies, health systems and clinics, including Kaiser Permanente, OptumServe and Adventist Health.

Yolanda Richardson, the state's secretary of Government Operations, said California is on track to soon administer about 3 million vaccines per week, although the biggest obstacle continues to be sufficient supply.

California's deal with Blue Shield raised some eyebrows, but the state cited the company's experience in operations and logistics.

"Clearly Blue Shield (is) not starting from ground zero. They have the networks and the doctors," Maviglio said.

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Email Ana B. Ibarra at [email protected] and Barbara Feder Ostrov at [email protected]

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California's new COVID-19 vaccine system to start Monday

by / CalMatters

Uploaded: Mon, Mar 1, 2021, 9:29 am

State health officials announced Friday that all counties will start playing by the same rulebook on Monday, when Blue Shield will take over distribution of vaccines in California.

A patchwork of COVID-19 vaccine eligibility policies that differ from county to county has deeply frustrated Californians. So state officials hired Blue Shield, one of the state's largest health insurers, to streamline and manage the logistics of allocating vaccines to local health departments and other vaccine providers.

Blue Shield on Friday spelled out some of the details of how the new oversight will work. Ten counties — eight in the Central Valley plus Imperial and Riverside — will go first. This means that Blue Shield will make recommendations to state health officials on how many doses should go to each of those counties, and which providers should get them.

Blue Shield CEO Paul Markovich said that its recommendations for how much to distribute doses to each county will be based on priority groups in the state's vaccination tiers as well as the state's goals to provide equity for disadvantaged communities.

All 58 counties are expected to go through the transition by the end of March. The most populated counties, including Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange and San Bernardino, will be in the second wave, with most Bay Area counties in the third wave.

Earlier in February, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the state would revamp its vaccine distribution system, acknowledging that the fragmented, county-by-county approach was slow in getting vaccines to the public. Blue Shield is tasked with simplifying and speeding the process up.

The state's goal is to scale up to 4 million immunizations per week, up from the current 1.4 million per week.

"It's a high stakes issue, and if something goes wrong, the blowback to the Newsom administration would be severe," said Democratic political consultant Steve Maviglio, who served as press secretary to former Governor Gray Davis. "The governor has staked his fortunes on making this vaccination system work. He's trying to find the best way to make this a success."

Markovich said making the switch takes time. To frustrated counties that may fear losing control of vaccine distribution, he said, "Give us a chance to make this work."

What will the new system mean to Californians waiting for a vaccination and sorting through confusing options? Through this new system, state officials have promised consistency, where eligibility looks the same in all counties and distribution moves at a similar pace throughout the state.

As counties move to the Blue Shield system, myturn.ca.gov and 1-833-422-4255 will become the main routes for scheduling appointments. Currently, signing up for appointments looks different in each county, with different websites and phone numbers, often confusing and frustrating residents.

State public health officials have set general eligibility guidelines but allowed counties and health providers some leeway in interpreting them. While all started by vaccinating the highest-priority health care workers and nursing home residents, they soon diverged.

Some counties vaccinated people 75 and older. Others set the threshold at 65 years. Some rural counties quickly vaccinated their priority groups and started vaccinating teachers and other essential workers, while some large, urban counties kept the focus on higher-risk seniors. The city of Long Beach, which has its own health department, moved ahead of most counties and already has vaccinated teachers.

As a result, a teacher working in one city might be immunized, while a teacher in the neighboring city or county might not -— even if they are teaching in person rather than online.

California currently prioritizes health care workers, long-term care residents and staff, people 65 and older, educators, child care workers, food industry employees, farmworkers and first responders. People with high-risk medical conditions such as cancer and heart disease will become eligible for vaccination starting on March 15, bringing the total number of eligible Californians to between 17 and 19 million.

About 8.2 million doses have been administered since COVID-19 vaccinations began in December. About 15 percent of all Californians have received at least one dose.

At a press conference in Fresno on Friday, Newsom said California would receive 1.58 million doses next week. That allocation is expected to grow when the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine comes on line.

So far, Blue Shield has contracted with at least 30 providers who will be getting shots into arms. These include pharmacies, health systems and clinics, including Kaiser Permanente, OptumServe and Adventist Health.

Yolanda Richardson, the state's secretary of Government Operations, said California is on track to soon administer about 3 million vaccines per week, although the biggest obstacle continues to be sufficient supply.

California's deal with Blue Shield raised some eyebrows, but the state cited the company's experience in operations and logistics.

"Clearly Blue Shield (is) not starting from ground zero. They have the networks and the doctors," Maviglio said.

Email Ana B. Ibarra at [email protected] and Barbara Feder Ostrov at [email protected]

Comments

Mondoman
Registered user
Green Acres
on Mar 1, 2021 at 9:48 am
Mondoman, Green Acres
Registered user
on Mar 1, 2021 at 9:48 am

Sutter strikes again! Both my parents' 2nd covid vaccine shots scheduled for later this week mysteriously disappeared from their Sutter online appointment lists this past weekend. If we hadn't logged in to check, we never would have noticed. Calling up Sutter today, they told us it's because the vaccinations appointments were canceled due to lack of vaccine. It's unclear whether they would have bothered calling us before we showed up at the Santa Clara Convention Center for the shots. There was certainly no notice in the MyHealthOnline accounts; sadly, this continues a pattern of the Sutter administration in particular not responding well to changes forced upon us by the virus. Kaiser on the other hand in my experience has shown responsiveness and flexibility in responding to virus-caused disruptions.


Irene
Registered user
Mountain View
on Mar 1, 2021 at 10:58 am
Irene, Mountain View
Registered user
on Mar 1, 2021 at 10:58 am

Mondoman- I am sympathetic with your situation. Call the SC County vaccine sign up number to see if the County can help you. 408-970-2000. Be prepared to be on hold. Good luck!


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 1, 2021 at 1:30 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Mar 1, 2021 at 1:30 pm

There's something screwy going on with Sutter's computer systems. Late last night I got an alert saying FINAL NOTICE TO SCHEDULE YOUR XXX APPOINTMENT which I HAD scheduled for today, had completed the EZ Arrival form and had gotten various confirmations and instructions.

When I told them about it in person today, they said they're in the midst of an "upgrade" to their computer system due to all the problems previously reported.


TimR
Registered user
Downtown North
on Mar 1, 2021 at 2:24 pm
TimR, Downtown North
Registered user
on Mar 1, 2021 at 2:24 pm

Can't blame this one on Trump. CA and all its counties had just about a year to prepare for this, and they have done a horrible job. Instead of bickering in circles about "equity," Newsom and his minions should have followed the science instead, which clearly shows age is the top risk factor--by a huge margin. The rest is just sad, political pandering.


community member
Registered user
University South
on Mar 1, 2021 at 4:31 pm
community member, University South
Registered user
on Mar 1, 2021 at 4:31 pm

Sutter runs PAMF like a factory, maximizing speed and patient turnover.
If you remember PAMF it was was patient centered, the doctors knew you and did their best. Now they have to move on, I believe they are limited in the time they can spend with you.
Not patient oriented. Run by corporate money managers who are clueless about patient care.
It would be good if they improve the website. It is a confusing disaster.
Trying to write to my doctor but cant find a way on MyHeathOnline.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 1, 2021 at 4:48 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Mar 1, 2021 at 4:48 pm

When you sign onto MyHealthOnline, MESSAGES is the first choice on the top left. Click on that and SEND Messages is right there. Pick the "member of your care team" from the list and send him/her an email.

SO automated, non-human systems. I asked GP to just file prescription renewals for LATER so I didn't have to bother him again. Now I've wasted an hour trying to tell Walgreen's that NO, I don't want them filled NOW and that I won't be picking them up NOW. This after 5 text messages and 1 call from them AFTER I told a human they were just for their records and NO I didn't want to call cancel ALL alerts, just the erroneous ones from TODAY.


John Sack
Registered user
Barron Park
on Mar 1, 2021 at 6:15 pm
John Sack, Barron Park
Registered user
on Mar 1, 2021 at 6:15 pm

Mondoman -- same thing happened to me and my spouse as happened to your parents. I have the feeling that we wouldn't have gotten a call (and we still haven't) so wouldn't have known unless we noticed the appointments were gone. We called Sutter. They said all appointments were cancelled (they did not say "postponed", which would have made more sense and felt less like "yeah, we just dropped you out") and that someone would call us to reschedule.

A neighbor said to call Stanford. I did. We got new appointments, but instead of this week, they are three weeks out. Which is 6 weeks after our first shot.

It isn't so much that the unreliable supply required an appointment be changed that irks me. It is that Sutter (let's not call it PAMF anymore) didn't even inform us. Somehow, their billing department is able to reach me long after a bill has been settled, so maybe they should have turned the communication over to the billing department. Sorry to be snarky.

At this point, I wonder if the county (Joe Simitian) can hold Sutter accountable.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 2, 2021 at 4:59 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Mar 2, 2021 at 4:59 pm

I just became one of the 95.000 to have my second vaccine cancelled by Sutter.

Can you mix and match the vaccines? They give no information on that -- which would be useful as we again scramble to get covered.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 3, 2021 at 8:36 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Mar 3, 2021 at 8:36 am

My experience with Sutter went from excellent to shaky when I went from a "regular" patient to a Medicare patient. Medicare has different rates for the counties. I had difficulty getting an appointment for a Covid test in 2020. And was bumped around with my first shot canceled. I then went on and got hooked up with El Camino Hospital and got my first shot and the second is scheduled. Sutter tried to set me up for my first shot but now they know I already have got my first shot. My advise to you all is try and get a reservation for a shot with the county. They were also very responsive when I was looking. You just had to prove you were a resident of Santa Clara County. Something here is very wrong. They all seem to be hooked up by county - I am wondering if the billing by county has something to do with this. Sutter is pre-occupied by county statistics.


The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Mar 3, 2021 at 4:08 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Mar 3, 2021 at 4:08 pm

I didn’t have all the facts and figures regarding vaccines but I’m happy the new vaccine system has started this week. I was wondering what will they do next as far as getting the vaccine distribution going at a faster pace. I’m happy Blue Shield is implementing this and I’m happy senior residents went first. I’m also happy that paly teachers and any district teachers will soon be able to be vaccinated as a priority before other paloaltonians. In this case it’s good to be an Educator. Schools will once again be able to serve students once school staff receives the vaccine. Curious parents may be asking themselves “what about me?” Biden said yesterday ALL Americans will have access to vaccines by the end of May. Hopefully, everyone can get an appointment before that, but that should give Palo Alto residents a sort of timeline. I’m looking forward to the day when everyone has access to the vaccine whether you are a palymom or an east coast transplant. I’m also hoping people keep their appointments and don’t sort of say “whatever” especially to the 2nd shot. We need people to keep their appointments so that we can build toward herd immunity. Sometimes I feel like a bystander since I’m not prioritized, but as for me too, I am looking forward to getting vaccinated but I will have to wait my turn. I really think the J&J shot is going to be key since it’s a 1 dose regimen and doesn’t need to have special refrigeration. I think at some point soon you will probably just be able to simply fill out your online name, get an appointment, and get vaccinated quickly with the addition of J&J. It’s been such a long hard year for everyone and we could all use a side splitting laugh, so the faster we can distribute the vaccine the faster we can get back to normal. I think we are all approaching a silver lining!
[Portion removed.]


Phoebe Tarkington
Registered user
another community
on Mar 4, 2021 at 9:25 am
Phoebe Tarkington, another community
Registered user
on Mar 4, 2021 at 9:25 am

I still do not trust or have faith in the vaccines from the standpoint of both their inherent safety and overall efficacy.

Many people are desperate and rushing to do whatever they believe will ensure their survival during the course of a constantly mutating viral pandemic.

Blind-faith in unproven, long-term pharmaceuticals is risky and in some ways, no different than blind faith in a higher power.

Come autumn of this year, we might be able to confirm some sort of progress towards curtailing the current and recognized Covid-19 virus but by then, there will be countless newer strains to contend with.

And I am not going to be an experimental pincushion without established proof or further scientific evidence.


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