As eligibility expands, vaccine shortages in California persist

Millions more Californians made the eligibility list for vaccinations Monday but continued shortages will make access difficult if not impossible.

Not only are many seniors still waiting, but the state also set aside 40% of its supply for underserved areas and 10% for teachers.

So supplies in most counties are flat, at best.

"We have a plan in place to get all groups vaccinated if we had the vaccine," said  Sonoma County Public Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase.

It's a big "if" for every Bay Area county.

Stanford Health Care on Monday evening announced it is suspending new vaccination appointments due to "supply disruptions."

An email to patients referred to the wider eligibility criteria and said suppliers for Alameda, Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties are "receiving a fraction of their expected shipments."

Congressional leaders weighed in on the disconnect in a briefing with Sonoma County. 

"Let's be impatient but also know the help is starting to arrive and we're going to get through this together," said Rep Jared Huffman, (D-San Rafael).

"Three months ago we didn't even a have a vaccine," reminded Rep. Mike Thompson, (D-St. Helena). "We've moved beyond 'help is on the way to help is here' and we're seeing improvements every day."

The two Congressmen emphasized that manufacturing is accelerating, with commitments for hundreds of millions of doses.

But they will not arrive in tandem with millions more vaccination candidates.

They include anyone 16 and older who has a health condition that could complicate a COVID-19 infection.

Other groups: shipping and transit workers, and people in congregate settings, notably those who live or work in jails or homeless shelters.

Contra Costa County outreach workers on Monday brought vaccinations to a homeless encampment in Martinez.

"I am afraid of needles, but I had to go do this, I had to because this was very important to me," said camper Frank Bozveck.

Another man, in drug recovery, said vaccination was an affirmation of life and hope. 

"I just kind of gave up and now I'm coming back, this place helped me come back," said Michael Cornelius, "and I want to live again and that's why I'm getting the  shot."

The medical community expects April to be a turnaround month for supplies.

For now, Bay Area counties are administering a fraction of the shots they're capable of.

Sonoma County, which took eight months to get to the red tier, has vaccinated about one-third of its residents.

It could give 40,000 vaccinations weekly, but will only receive about 8,000 doses this week, almost all of them second shots.

"We want to stay in red, we want to move to orange, and we want to move to yellow. We do not want to move back to purple," Mase said. 

And there is concern that people who are frustrated waiting their turn, will ease off precautions.

"It feels good to know children are hugging their grandparents again, and they're going back to school," said Assemblymember Marc Levine, (D-San Rafael.) "But let's not screw this up, people are still dying of COVID today."

During the briefing, Huffman acknowledged frustration over scarcity, but predicted, "We will break through that very soon."

He added: "On a rolling basis you are going to see waves and waves of more vaccine."

That sounds promising to the newly vaccinated who wish others could join them.

"Maybe they can't make it fast enough so I feel bad for people who can't get it yet," said Ivy Fong, emerging from a Kaiser vaccination site in San Rafael. "Hopefully they'll have it soon for everyone."