Thousands of vaccine appointments canceled for Kaiser members in the South Bay

Santa Clara County officials canceled vaccination appointments for thousands of Kaiser Permanente members blaming limited supplies from the state.

Those people are now being sent back to Kaiser for their shots and that leaves many people scrambling to get second doses in time.

In a few weeks, teacher Hilary Orr is heading back to the classrom at Notre Dame in San Jose. In a few days, she's getting her second dose of vaccine, or she was supposed to.

Her appointment was canceled by Santa Clara County Thursday night.

"It's been a tough teaching year and it just didn't feel like something we needed on top of everything else," says Orr.

8,700 people got the email from the county kicking them back into the Kaiser system.

Kaiser issued a statement saying they were "surprised and disappointed to learn that only people with Kaiser Permanente health coverage had their appointments cancelled by Santa Clara County." 

"I'm surprised that they're surprised because we did it the same way a week ago," says Santa Clara County Executive Jeff Smith.

The issue was complicated. They say it has to do with who has available shots right now.

They say Kaiser held back 15,000 doses for second shots, more than enough to cover the people the county was sending them.

"Our goal is to match the patient with the vaccine and since we know Kaiser has a large inventory of unused vaccine, it only is appropriate that the patients who are Kaiser patients would go back to Kaiser to get their dosages," says Smith.

County officials say they asked Kaiser, through Blue Shield and ultimately the state, whether they could have some of Kaiser's supply for Kaiser patients, but that request was denied.

"If Kaiser had been willing to share vaccine, we wouldn't have been in a position needing to redirect people. It's the last thing we want to do. We don't want to disrupt anybody," says Cindy Chavez of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors.

But for many, it is a disruption. Orr spent hours trying to schedule at Kaiser.

"They didn't have it updated that I had had my first shot so they would only let me try and make a first dose appointment. And I tried everywhere, Stockton, everywhere was booked up," she says.

Eventually Orr was able to find an appointment not too far away, not too far past her second shot window.

But she says many of her friends weren't so fortunate.

"Couldn't get through. Can't get an appointment. So I got lucky. I don't know what they're going to do," she says.

Santa Clara County says they had more than 20,000 Kaiser patients in their pipeline, so many were able to keep their appointments. As for whether this reshuffling will happen again in the coming weeks, they can't be sure.

In another statement to KTVU, Kaiser said it is setting up a special schedule of appointments for members who had theirs canceled with the county. 

"We are reaching out starting today to these members to confirm they will have convenient access to the vaccinations they expected. This will be followed shortly thereafter by a separate communication with instructions for these members on how to access the Kaiser Permanente appointments available for them," the health provider said.