SAN JOSE (CBS SF) – Health officials in Santa Clara County on Thursday announced a partnership with other major vaccine providers in the South Bay to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to any county resident 65 and older, regardless of one's healthcare provider.
Billed as a "no wrong door" policy, the new strategy is aimed to speed up distribution of the shots among the most vulnerable.
"In the county, we only have control over part of the system. And our job is to make it as clear and consistent and barrier-free as we can," Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said at a briefing on Thursday.
"So anyone who is 65 and up, doesn't matter where you go to get your medical care, you can register and get vaccinated. A Kaiser patient can come to the county, a Stanford patient can go to Kaiser, a county patient can go to Stanford. It doesn't matter," Cody went on to say, urging seniors to sign up.
According to Cody, out of the 1,473 people in the county who have died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, 80% of the deaths were among people 65 and older. So far, roughly 37% of people 75 and older have received the vaccine. That number drops to just 28% for people 65 and up.
The change was welcome news for seniors across the Santa Clara Valley.
"I think everybody's working on, trying to resolve all the issues they had in the past. Full speed ahead. Get it done," said 84-year-old James Oliver, who was receiving a vaccine at the county's Berger vaccination site in San Jose on Thursday.
"Trying to get an appointment with Kaiser was very frustrating," 70-year-old Julia Rencher told KPIX 5. Rencher said she eventually gave up on trying to make an appointment with Kaiser and turned to the county instead.
"After several attempts, holding on for long periods of time, and finally saying I just can't do this any longer," Rencher said as she waited in a long line outside the Berger facility.
Kaiser has been hamstrung with supply shortages that have forced the healthcare provider to cancel some already scheduled appointments.
"When we saw that Kaiser was forced to cancel clinics, we had to ask ourselves, 'How can we fix that?'" said Santa Clara County Executive Dr. Jeff Smith.
Smith said in a statement that supply shortages, along with the state's complex vaccine distribution and allocation system has led to an uneven rollout of the vaccines so far.
"The 'no wrong door' approach we are implementing is designed to get available vaccines into arms as quickly and equitably as possible in order to save lives," Smith said.
County health officials also announced Thursday that to prioritize equitable access to the vaccines, particularly in hard hit communities, capacity will be expanded at vaccination sites, particularly in Gilroy and East San Jose.
More information, along with links for making vaccine appointments can be found online at http://sccfreevax.org/.
Additional assistance on making vaccine appointments through the county's health system can be found by calling the Valley Connection Call Center at 408-970-2000 weekdays from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and weekends from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Officials said assistance would be available in multiple languages, including English, Spanish and Vietnamese.
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