New agreements have more counties joining California’s vaccine network

Thanks to some new agreements, several local counties are joining the state of California's vaccination network.

This comes after many balked at the original agreements, which included a third party -- Blue Shield.

Now the counties believe they will be able to maintain more control of the process on the local level.

Whether it's at mass vaccination sites, or community clinics, Santa Clara County wants to be able to shuffle doses where they're needed.

"We wanted the ability to be flexible and act quickly on the ground," says Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez.

And a Memorandum of Understanding they signed with the state hopes to achieve that: a balance between local officials wanting to keep control and a state hoping to standardize the vaccination process.

It is an alternative to the state's initial proposal: that counties sign a contract with Blue Shield to manage their supply.

"We want to make sure that the county has direct contact with the state to receive those vaccines," says San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa. He adds that San Mateo plans to sign the new agreement with the state.

Marin County signed the agreement Thursday.

Nearly 20 others have as well, as compared to only two counties statewide that signed the Blue Shield contract.

"We were concerned that if Blue Shield comes along and has kind of a cookie cutter approach, that we might actually lose speed rather than gain speed," says Dr. Matt Willis, Public Health Officer in Marin County.

Marin didn't want to change what was working.

That was Santa Clara County's concern too; that a contract with Blue Shield might have meant extra red tape and limit access to smaller community clinics.

"Each of us having contracts meant in order to move vaccine between parties, we'd have to talk to Blue Shield, and then Blue Shield would have to make that decision," says Chavez.

According to state officials, the new agreement is supposed to help with allocation and tracking as the supply increases.

It also asks counties to move to the state's MyTurn website eventually.

But counties say in the meantime, it allows a more tailored approach.

"We've already seen a lot of success so far and wanted to protect that," says Willis.

State officials want to clarify that Blue Shield's roll hasn't changed, only the structure of the county agreements.

Several other Bay Area Counties, including Contra Costa, plan to consider the new version in the coming days.

San Francisco's COVID Command Center said the city's Department of Public Health is finalizing a separate Memorandum of Understanding directly with the California Government Operations Agency that confirms San Francisco’s continued role in rapidly and equitably administering vaccines.

SFDPH expects that agreement to be signed on Thursday.