In-Depth: California marks one year of COVID-19 vaccine effort

More than 62 million shots administered
Posted at 5:55 AM, Dec 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-17 13:06:59-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Doctors and experts with the California Department of Public Health say the first year of COVID-19 vaccines was an overwhelming success, even as they say more work needs to be done.

"This is a week of celebration and a week of mourning," says Dr. Rohan Radhakrishna, the Deputy Director of the California Department of Public Health, when asked how he looks at the anniversary of the first shots in the state.

Statewide, 61,992,176 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, an average of 205,474 shots per day. California has 69.9% of its eligible population fully vaccinated.

In San Diego, 5,892,662 doses have been administered, an average of 16,164 shots per day. The county has 76.9% of its population fully vaccinated.

"We are a nationwide leader when it comes to vaccine equity and administration," Dr. Radhakrishna says. "It's been a success of partnership and nimbleness. This has been an all of society, all of government response."

Getting to this point took a variety of approaches. It included mass vaccination sites, vaccine prize lotteries, and targeted outreach with people going door-to-door.

"The evolution (of the rollout) went from surge to surgical to a laser focus on zip codes and now specific addresses," says Dr. Radhakrishna.

But the rollout wasn't always easy. Traffic and long waits plagued early mass vaccine sites. Online appointment systems were confusing to navigate, and some people couldn't find appointments.

Even as those problems eased, there are still what Dr. Radhakrishna calls "pockets" of unvaccinated people leading to more infections and outbreaks.

Even after a year and nearly 62-million shots, some people are frustrated the Pandemic isn't over. Instead, it seems to be picking up steam again.

"We all wanted things to go back to normal after a year," says Dr. Radhakrishna. "It's unfortunate that this continues to drag on. But the risk is higher this winter season. So our level of protection needs to be higher to meet that."

That's why he says the messaging over the next year will focus on booster shots and precise, targeted outreach to unvaccinated people.

"Two shots is no longer enough," Dr. Radhakrishna says. "We know other conditions like measles, mumps, and rubella or hepatitis B take a series of three shots. We know that other things like tetanus and pertussis need a booster every ten years. And influenza needs one every year."

Meanwhile, the Department of Public Health will continue to promote health and safety protocols like masks, hand washing, sanitizer, and social distancing as ways to keep people safe.

"I wish we were done. We all wish we were done, but we're still stuck in this mess," says Dr. Rakesh Patel, the CEO of Neighborhood Health Care in San Diego. "But, we know that these do things do work, and we just need to stick with it."

Dr. Patel says the silver lining of the last year comes in how adaptable people and organizations were. He has a new appreciation of people's capacity to change.

"It shows what we're capable of doing," he says. "Hopefully, we take some of these lessons and apply them to other parts of the healthcare sector."

"I think the key thing we've learned is that getting vaccinated is still the key to getting us out of this Pandemic," he says.