Santa Clara Co. calls for more transparency, better coordination with vaccine distribution

Santa Clara County officials want to speed up the COVID-19 vaccination process and they’re calling for a more unified effort as confusion accompanies the early stages of distribution. 

A new proposal would require large healthcare systems in the county to produce detailed plans for administering the vaccine by Jan 26, county supervisors said in a press conference Monday. Included in the plan is how people will know when they can get vaccinated and how vaccines will be distributed once they're available. 

County officials said their constituents are ready for their shot but when, where and how to get it is a common question that’s lacking a clear answer. The call for better coordination comes at a time when federal, state and local leaders have criticized the vaccine rollout. 

"We need to have a crisp answer if we want folks to line up in a timely fashion. It really is that simple," said Supervisor Joe Simitian. "If you take a moment to look at the numbers, we can’t afford to lose a month, we can’t afford to lose a week and  we can’t afford to lose even a day."

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The lack of clarity is partly because the county is in charge of overseeing vaccine distribution at the local level and the state is in charge of allocating doses to hospitals, including Kaiser Permanente and the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, which serves roughly half of the 2 million Santa Clara County residents. The county said they have no way of knowing how such entities will deliver vaccines to their patients.  

"Clearly there’s an essential effort, one of cooperation and coordination and oversight that we have to play at the county when we have major healthcare providers essentially responsible for over half the county’s population," Simitian said. 

MORE: Bay Area ICUs nearly full as capacity dips below 1 %

In early December, California unveiled its vaccine distribution plan that prioritized front-line workers. As of Friday, more than 47,000 healthcare workers in Santa Clara County have received their first dose and there's about 90,000 more to go, according to health officials.

Bay Area Vaccine announcements also came out of Contra Costa County on Monday. Health officials said during a briefing on Zoom they're looking to more than double the number of vaccines from approximately 3,000 to 7,000 per day. They hope to begin immunizing the next group before the end of January. 

In San Mateo County, front-line medical workers received their COVID vaccines Monday without having to leave their cars. Officials hope the drive up facility speeds up the process as Gov. Gavin Newsom said he expects California to administer a million more doses by this weekend. 

Santa Clara County elected officials are expected to formally ask the county health department on Tuesday to come up with a precise plan. The proposal extends to additional federal programs where vaccines are distributed directly from the state, such as Veterans Affairs hospitals.

"We need speed, we need clarity and we need transparency," said Board of Supervisors President Cindy Chavez. "And on top of that, we need a real rigorous communication framework so everyone knows when to expect it’s their turn."

Just like other areas around the state, Santa Clara County has had limited access to freezers to store the vaccine. The proposal will include contingency plans for unexpected situations such as broken freezers or doses that were unintentionally thawed. 

Santa Clara on Monday was still in Tier 1 of Phase1a of the state’s priority system, which includes healthcare workers at the highest risk of exposure. Vaccinations are expected to expand to the next group in a couple of weeks. Health officials said most people can find out when its their turn to get vaccinated from their health care provider. 

This story was reported from Oakland.