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Blue Shield, Kaiser Permanente To Take Over California COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — As California struggles to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine, they've turned to health insurance giant Blue Shield of California to create and administrate a statewide vaccine provider network, officials said Wednesday.

Officials say Blue Shield of California will create and manage a statewide administration network to distribute vaccines directly to healthcare providers. Kaiser Permanente will also be part of the effort by distributing vaccines to its network of providers. Both health insurance companies are California-based non-profits, state officials said.

Seniors wait in long vaccine lines at Balboa Sports Complex in Encino
ENCINO, CA - JANUARY 27, 2021: David Aberson, 86, left, and his wife Dori, 75, make their way with others in the by appointment only line to get vaccine shots to protect against the coronavirus at the Balboa Sports Complex in Encino. Dori Aberson said that they were not able to get appointments for both of them on the same day and that she has to come back the next day to get her vaccine shot. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

The COVID-19 vaccine had up until now been distributed by county public health departments. But across the state, eligible people have had trouble getting appointments to get the vaccine, and sites have been hampered by dwindling supplies and a shortage of medically-trained volunteers and workers.

"The vaccine was supposed to go to nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and group homes, and we've been behind," said Dr. Mike Wasserman of the state's vaccine advisory committee.

The distribution changeover is expected to take place sometime in mid-February. Dr. Wasserman said he is hopeful the shift to distributing the vaccine by a third-party administrator will make the process more efficient.

"If this helps speed that up, I'm all for it," he said.

However, the move is already drawing criticism from lawmakers like LA City Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez. She blasted the governor's announcement, which happened just a few hours after the council discussed equitable vaccine distribution with LA County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer.

"The announcement last night was surprising and disheartening. The details of this agreement have not been made public," Rodriguez said in a statement. "That makes it even less believable that this is in the best interest of the public and it contributes to a government pandemic response that has been confusing, constantly changing and not aligned with an equitable approach to combating COVID-19."

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