Santa Clara County leaders push for exemption from state's vaccination plan

Santa Clara County officials want an exemption from Gov. Gavin Newsom from the state's MyTurn COVID vaccination plan. 

County leaders hosted a news conference on Thursday, rallying people around their proposed exemption.

"We’ll have better ability to make sure that we vaccinate our entire community more quickly, and with more agility on the ground," said District 2 representative on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, Cindy Chavez.

MyTurn is a system to coordinate vaccine appointments and dosing options. But several counties, including Santa Clara County, want to keep that control for themselves, managing the appointments and site locations at a county level through their own health departments. 

The MyTurn website has been criticized by users attempting to schedule appointments.

Some experts say a centralized distribution method may not be in the best interests of all residents.

"The difference between counties in California, that a state-wide protocol is just not going to meet the needs for everyone in the county," said Dr. Jessica Holzer of the University of New Haven. "So county-level professionals are going to know their county best. They’re gonna know their populations, they’re gonna know their doctors. They’re gonna know their pharmacies. They just gonna have the tightest relationship."

On Tuesday, Santa Clara County officials echoed those sentiments, announcing they would not sign a contract with Blue Shield of California.

The president of the board of supervisors says she expressed concerns to the governor’s office about Blue Shield, the healthcare provider becoming the administrator of the MyTurn plan. This plan dictates that Blue Shield will be in charge of who gets vaccinated and when.

So far, only Kern County has signed a contract with Blue Shield and officials there said they feared failing to do so would prohibit them from continuing to vaccinate 5,000 people a day. 

"So we didn’t want there to be any lag in our community being able to access those services," Kern County Public Health Director Bryann Carrigan said. "And we were told by Blue Shield is we did not sign the contract within five business days, that there’s the potential we wouldn’t be able to continue as a vaccination provider."

Blue Shield sent an emailed statement which says in part, "our goal is to save lives by helping to provide all Californians equitable access to the vaccines. We continue to work diligently…to build an enhanced state vaccine network to increase capacity…to administer 4 million doses a week."

The company says Santa Clara County can opt-out of MyTurn and still vaccinate residents.