Despite assertions COVID-19 vaccine shipments would increase in April, a federal supply issue will result in a reduced number of doses distributed to San Mateo County next week, greatly limiting the county’s ability to host targeted first-dose clinics.
“This week the state plans to reduce first dose allocations across all counties proportionately,” Chief of Health Louise Rogers said in a statement. “With this allocation, we are able to manage second-dose clinics this week and have scaled back plans for first-dose clinics.”
A federal supply issue will result in a 33% reduction in California’s allocation next week. Due to that reduction, the county will only receive roughly 11,450 doses, a shipment two thirds the size of this week’s allocation and nearly half of what was received two weeks ago.
While it’s still unclear what issues are limiting the federal supply, Rogers noted in her statement and during Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting that fewer doses have been allocated to the county as local agencies receive shipments directly from federal programs.
“This reduction to the state is caused by near-term supply challenges at the national level, as well as increasing proportions of California vaccine being delivered through the federal direct allocation programs,” Rogers said.
County Health spokesman Preston Merchant said the shipments will be fairly equally split between Pfizer and Moderna products with a small amount of Johnson and Johnson or Janssen doses.
Shipment sizes from all three companies have been reduced but Merchant said janssen doses will see the greatest reduction. The company has dealt with manufacturing issues recently resulting in 15 million doses being destroyed but Merchant said the state did not say whether the shipment reductions were related to the lost vaccine.
Given that planning for next week’s first and second dose clinics is still underway and shipment sizes are only estimates, Merchant was unable to specify how many clinics will be affected by the shipment reduction.
“If we have a few hundred more that makes a difference for community clinics,” Merchant said.
Vaccine supply has long been an issue in the county and officials have routinely noted that the number of doses received fall substantially short of demand. Supply became increasingly constrained as the state began to direct 40% of doses to its most underserved communities, none of which are in San Mateo County and only 10 falling in the greater Bay Area.
For the past weeks the county has steadily received between 18,000 and 22,000 doses. Focused on vaccinating its own underserved communities, the county has been distributing doses to community partners for second-dose events or to smaller facilities for first and second dose clinics.
Officials have openly hoped supply would increase in April as the state continued to expand vaccine eligibility. Dr. Anand Chabra, section chief of COVID-19 mass vaccination and medical director of Family Health Services, has also said state officials have indicated its program directing vaccines to underserved communities would end in April, freeing up additional supply.
This week, the county only received roughly 17,000 doses for its six clinics to be held across Daly City, East Palo Alto, North Fair Oaks, San Mateo and South San Francisco. Doses are also administered through mobile medical teams to homebound or unsheltered residents.
“Next week will not be good for us unfortunately,” said County Manager Mike Callagy who announced the supply cuts during a town hall hosted by U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo.
Still, officials have assured that all second dose clinics will be honored next week, with Callagy noting during the event the county has yet to miss a second dose appointment.
To date, 333,810 residents have received at least one dose, accounting for 52% of the county’s population over the age of 16. Nearly 64% have completed the vaccine series.
“It’s disturbing that at this point in time we hear that [allocations will be reduced]. They keep saying the first week of April, second week but weeks are going by,” Callagy said in a phone interview. “What’s really troubling to me is that potentially lives are at stake. We feel a real burden to get doses in our arms.”
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