Sutter Health postpones 90K second doses of COVID-19 vaccine

Sutter Health says they're postponing 90,000 second dose appointments across Northern California due to supply constraints.

The healthcare giant says it's currently notifying people with appointments through March 9 that they'll need to reschedule their second shot for a later date.

"I would expect this if we got vaccinated at a local library for example, or something like that. But I don’t expect that from one of the biggest northern California health providers," said Rand Saffiah.

She said her husband received his first shot from Sutter Health on Feb. 6 and was slated for the second dose on Mar. 6. But the company sent an email on Feb. 27 notifying him that they’re out of vaccine and it’s unknown when he’ll get the second shot.

"We’re kind of stuck now. And out of the blue, not knowing what to do for a second shot," Saffiah said.

A Sutter Health spokesperson told KTVU that supply issues forced them to halt all new first dose appointments. Patients with second dose appointments are also on hold.

"We have been urgently requesting the additional allocations we need from the state in order to prevent canceling the more than 90,000 second dose vaccination appointments," the spokesperson said in a statement. 

"We’re really at a point where we kind of reached a cliffhanger. We’re so close to vaccinating much of the population in the next few months, and these setbacks are reasons more people can become infected," said Dr. Karl Minges, chair of the Department of Health Administration and Policy at University of New Haven.

In response to Sutter’s vaccine shortfall, some South Bay patients have turned to other providers to try to get either the first or second shot.

"If they came to us before they got any doses, that wouldn’t be a problem. If they went there, and they’re coming for a second dose, we really want them to go back. We want all people to go back to where they got their first dose," said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib,  Santa Clara County COVID-19 testing officer. 

That leaves some people, like Rand Saffiah’s husband, unsure of when he'll get the  second shot.

"We’re just hoping miraculously they give us at least a date," she said.

Sutter isn’t the only health care provider dealing with a vaccine shortage – it’s a national problem. Health experts said the longer it takes to resolve this, the longer it takes to reach herd immunity.

For now, Sutter said it's telling patients that second doses can be administered up to six weeks after the first dose, per CDC guidelines.