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COVID Vaccine: Supply Constraints Thwart Rapid Rollout Across Bay Area

CONTRA COSTA COUNTY (KPIX 5) -- While Bay Area health officials on Friday said they are ready to ramp up distribution of the COVID vaccine to residents, hope of more doses being available from the federal government may be a false promise.

At the federal level, new questions are emerging about the national COVID vaccine stockpile and future deliveries. California is still struggling to work its way through the vaccine it does have.

That is leading to tough decisions about who gets vaccinated at clinics like the one at Diablo Valley College.

"It's an incredible moment," said Debbie Toth, President & CEO of Choice in Aging. "It's dystopian in many ways, but I think the work is being done in Contra Costa to ensure we do the best we can with what we have."

Age, medical history, living situation are part of the criteria for the state's tiered vaccination plan. For county health officials, the continuing scarcity of supply still drives every decision about who gets vaccinated, when, and how.

It is that scarcity that is the main reason why there isn't a stadium-sized mass vaccination site in the Bay Area operating yet.

"It's all about supply," said Contra Costa County Deputy Health Officer Dr. Ori Tzvieli. "If I had an extra 20,000 doses, I would arrange those in a jiffy. But I just don't have those right now."


The county gets about 12,000 doses a week from the state, but it doesn't yet have the logistical capacity to inject much more than that, even if it had the supply.

Contra Costa Health Services has received roughly 1,000 vaccination requests per hour since expanding COVID-19 vaccine eligibility Thursday to all residents 65 and older, county officials said Friday.

While the county and its partners expect to administer an average of 3,600 vaccine doses per day by the end of next week, Tzvieli said demand is still far outpacing supply.

"We want the vaccine to keep flowing," Tzvieli said Friday during a briefing on the county's vaccination efforts. "We're ready for that and we're hoping that'll be the case."

Appointment wait times at county-run vaccination sites are still roughly one week, according to Tzvieli and Contra Costa Health Services director Anna Roth.

Vaccinations at public and private health care facilities are also plodding along for now.

In addition to the lack of doses, Tzvieli said the county must also increase its number of health care workers that are trained to administer vaccines and monitor patients for 15 minutes after administration for allergic reactions.

Roth said the county has partnered with pharmacy technicians at Safeway and Rite Aid as well as fire agencies and paramedics across the county to help administer vaccines.

"All this is being built while we're facing the largest surge of the pandemic, which is already our stretching our limited resources," Tzvieli said.

"Our resolve is to get all of the existing doses that are in this state administered as quickly and efficiently as possible," Governor Gavin Newsom said Friday.

Newsom was on hand to open the Dodgers Stadium vaccination "supersite," promising to to accelerate the distribution of California's stockpile after a recent change of strategy.

KPIX 5 has learned that 1.2 million vaccines have been administered statewide as of Friday. That's only a third of the 3.5 million that have been sent to California.

"Initially, the plan was everyone that got a vaccine, we'd save a second dose for them, to make sure we would have the proper schedule," explained Dr. John Swartzberg of UC Berkeley School of Public Health. "So a lot of vaccine was held in reserve."

What is unfolding now is the first real push to resolve California's early vaccine bottleneck. It may well lead to the country's next vaccine problem.

"Right now, we have a little more vaccine, but the problem is primarily logistics," said Swartzberg. "But very soon we're going to resolve the logistics issue and get it much better, and not have enough vaccine."

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