Despite the vaccination of 38,000 health care workers and 12,000 congregate care facility residents and staffers expected to be completed in February, San Mateo County officials say it’s still too difficult to tell when the general public will see broad community access to vaccines.  

“There’s just a lot of complexity to work through to get to a good estimate of when we’ll reach the general public,” said Deputy Chief of Health Srija Srinivasan during a press briefing Wednesday. 

On top of a statewide lag in supply and distribution of doses, Srinivasan said the current surge in cases and hospitalizations have also posed a vaccination hurdle for cross-county medical facilities. Health care systems are tasked with balancing the potential to lose a recently vaccinated employee experiencing side effects with staffing highly needed hospital beds. And general scheduling needs like time off can set the vaccination process back.

County Manager Mike Callagy also noted that medical systems like Kaiser Permanente, Sutter Health and Dignity Health are responsible for managing their own vaccination efforts and are outside of the county’s authority. 

On those who fall within county care, including the unsheltered, Medical clients and the uninsured, Callagy said officials remain “laser focused” on creating an efficient vaccination plan, adding that the region is waiting on finalized state guidance for who falls into the next priority lists expected to be completed this week.

“We are working as quickly and diligently as possible to make sure when that time comes they will get their vaccines,” said Callagy. “These are some of the most vulnerable people in our community.”

More than three weeks into Phase 1A, the first of three loosely detailed state determined vaccination phases, many who have received their first dose have begun receiving their second. With Phase 1B broken into two tiers, Tier One would then seek to vaccinate those ages 75 and older and people at risk of workplace exposure in the education, child care, emergency services and food and agriculture sectors, according to the state’s COVID-19 vaccine website.

Assembly Speaker pro Tem Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, in a statement, shared approval of the “fair and transparent approach” the state Drafting Guidelines Workgroup and the Community Vaccine Advisory Committee have used in developing a vaccination plan. 

“The phases they have outlined take into consideration those who are most vulnerable based on age, risk of exposure and sectors that are necessary to provide critical services, including getting our children back to school,” said Mullin. “That said, the seamless implementation of the plan will be predicated on a consistent supply of vaccines being received. I am also anxious to review the governor’s proposed budget when it is released later this week as I anticipate a request for an infusion of much-needed funding to help accelerate the distribution process.” 

While Srinivasan said federal officials have suggested the general public could see broad public vaccinations by the summer, pinpointing a specific time frame is still difficult to name as shipment numbers constantly change, she said. 

To date, the county has received 22,000 doses from the pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna with another 6,000 doses expected to arrive in the next allotment, said Srinivasan. Additional doses have also been shipped to large multicounty providers. With all administered vaccines required to be reported to the state, Callagy said officials hope to release information on how many county residents and employees have been vaccinated in the near future. 

Highlighting the strain placed on medical workers, Callagy also raised concern for the increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Of the 26,497 virus cases reported in the county, 234 residents have died with an additional 177 hospitalized for COVID-related illnesses, 40 in the ICU. 

“If you would have told me at the beginning of this we’d be at 234 [deaths] I would be shocked,” said Callagy, noting the strain the recent surge has had on health systems. “Here we are.”   

Visit covid19.ca.gov/vaccines/#When-can-I-get-vaccinated for more state information on COVID-19 vaccinations.

sierra@smdailyjournal.com 

(650) 344-5200 ext. 106

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