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COVID Vaccines: Santa Clara Co. Health Officials Critical Of Blue Shield Running California Vaccine Distribution

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) – As California seeks to improve COVID-19 vaccine distribution by bringing on health care provider Blue Shield, some Bay Area health officials say it's a bad move.

Blue Shield of California's new task is to create a faster and more equitable network to get shots into the arms of tens of millions of residents. But questions are being raised about the sudden shift.

• ALSO READ: Bay Area COVID-19 Vaccine Resources Page

"This is totally new and doesn't make a whole lot of sense," said Santa Clara County Executive Officer Dr. Jeff Smith.

The California Department of Health says local county health departments, pharmacies, community health centers, among others are expected to be a part of the new network.

ALSO READ: California's Shift To Age-Based Distribution Sparks New Round Of Criticism – 'A Political Calculus'

The goal is to address the distribution bottleneck, partly resulting from data and system issues.

"The state is recognizing this, and trying to work on different ways of working with third-party administrators and others," said Dr. Susan Phillip of the San Francisco Department of Health.

Santa Clara County is now openly criticizing the Gov. Gavin Newsom's latest decision.

"Vaccine allocation will preferentially go to patient groups that are lower risk than others, and we are very worried about that," said Smith.

Blue Shield declined KPIX 5 request for an interview, but sent this statement saying in part, "Great work has already been done and together we can dramatically expand the rate of vaccinations so that all Californians can be protected."

"We're not sure what problem it is we are trying to solve by giving control over a precious commodity to a private non-profit organization who has never done it before," said Smith.

The rate of vaccinations is improving this month, more than tripling to 125,000 per day, and administering a total of more than 2.4 million vaccinations. But state officials recently admitted it could take until June to provide vaccines to all those 65 and older.

Blue Shield of California said the transition will take several weeks into mid-February and more details will be shared in the coming days.

Santa Clara County officials say they can't quite say or know what the new role will be for local county health departments.

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