SAN JOSE, Calif. (CBS SF/AP) — Santa Clara County health officials have told Gov. Gavin Newsom they will not participate in his plan to have Blue Shield control COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
County Executive Jeff Smith said late Monday that the county will not sign a contract with the health insurance company because it would not improve speed or efficiency.
"A statewide third-party administrator clearly cannot adequately address the needs of our local community," Smith said in an email statement. "We don't need more bureaucracy limiting access to vaccine, we just need more vaccine," said Dr. Jeff Smith, County Executive for the County of Santa Clara."
The state's switch to a vaccine appointment and delivery system administered by Blue Shield was expected to be completed by March 31. Skepticism, however, has surfaced among the state's 58 counties.
So far, Kern County is the only county to sign a contract with Blue Shield. But 41 federally qualified health centers, 28 hospitals, four large medical groups, three pharmacies and three tribal clinics have signed on, according to the company.
In Santa Clara County, Smith characterized Blue Shield's role as "adding bureaucracies."
The state turned to Blue Shield to create uniform rules and increase the rate of vaccinations, with the state's My Turn system serving as the central portal for getting appointments. Blue Shield is also to improve targeting of hard-hit communities.
"Our goal is to save lives by helping to provide all Californians equitable access to the vaccines, especially in those communities hardest hit by the pandemic," Blue Shield spokesperson Matthew Yi said in a statement.
In other vaccination news, after weeks of waiting, the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine arrived in Santa Clara County on Monday.
The county received 7,500 doses of the new COVID-19 vaccine, according to public health officials. Additional doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are expected to arrive in Santa Clara County on March 23.
The highly-anticipated Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine only requires one dose, rather than the two doses required by Pfizer's and Moderna's vaccines. It has been anxiously awaited by local health officials hoping to boost vaccination rates across the county, especially in hardest hit areas, although it's not immediately clear where the vaccine doses are headed.
County officials said there is not "a designated location" for the vaccine at this time.
There have been 112,000 cases of COVID-19 in Santa Clara County and 1,823 deaths as of Monday.
As of March 4, 335,333 Santa Clara County residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine while 160,820 received both. The county's goal is to vaccinate 85 percent of its residents by August.
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