Debate over how to speed up California's slow vaccine rollout

Three weeks after being California's first nurse to get the COVID vaccine shot, Helen Cordova, an ICU nurse at Kaiser Permanente in Los Angeles, was relieved Monday to get her second shot.

"I just received my second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. I'm excited cause that means I'm that much closer to immunity," said Cordova.

Across the state and nation, however, the vaccination rollout has been slow, prompting some doctors to question whether the doses are best used right away instead of being set aside and stored for the second dose 3 to 4 weeks later, which follows the clinical trials' protocols.

According to the CDC data posted Monday, more than 15 million vaccine doses have been distributed, but only 4.5 million people have received the first shot.

California's governor says the state has administered about 35% of the 1.2 million doses received so far, with another 600,000 vaccine doses expected to be added soon to the state's supply.

"It's gone too slowly I know for many of us. All of us, we want to see 100% of what's received, immediately administered in people's arms-so that's a challenge," said Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The state has joined the federal pharmacy partnership with CVS and Walgreens to deliver doses to skilled nursing facilities.

Deborah Pacyna, a spokeswoman for the California Association of Health Facilities, says just getting shots to the state's 235,000 skilled nursing center staff and residents could stretch through February.

"About 10% of staff and residents have been vaccinated so we have a long way to go," said Pacyna.

She says the winter holidays delayed the rollout because most vaccination clinics paused during the week of Christmas.

"It got off to a slow start because of the Christmas holiday. But now that we're in January, a lot of facilities are scheduled to get their shots in the next couple weeks," said Pacyna.

Great Britain announced it will stretch supplies by delaying the second vaccine doses to 12 weeks instead of four.

The University of California San Francisco's Dept. of Medicine chief Dr. Bob Wachter says he thinks the benefit of getting more people vaccinated early could outweigh the risks of saving vaccines for second doses 21-28 days later.

"I'm just worried that we're going so slowly that too many people are going to stay fully vulnerable if they don't get at least their first shot," said Wachter.

The nation's top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci recommends waiting a few weeks before considering any changes.

"I think we can get there if we really accelerate, get some momentum going and see what happens as we get into the first couple of weeks of January," said Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Late Monday evening, the FDA said in a statement there should be no changes. "Until vaccine manufacturers have data and science supporting a change, we continue to strongly recommend that health care providers follow the FDA-authorized dosing schedule," the statement read.

Newsom says he wants to set aside $300 million dollars to ramp up the state's distribution efforts.

Great Britain administered its first shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine Monday.

The AstraZeneca vaccine has not been considered yet for Emergency Use Authorization in the United States, but a Cincinnati doctor studying Astra Zeneca's vaccine says it could apply within weeks. If approved, experts estimate that would also increase the vaccine supplies, as it only requires refrigeration, making distribution easier.

Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Jana at and follow her on Twitter @JanaKTVU or Facebook @NewsJana or