California partners with health systems to focus on vaccine delivery network

equity and efficiency vaccine
Posted at 2:19 PM, Feb 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-04 20:16:49-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Across California, a mass vaccination effort is well underway.

Depending on who you talk to, there are varying opinions on how it's going.

"The way they're running this right here is really good, really good," Cliff Stoffer said, shortly after getting his first shot.

Judie Erickson, 78, lives in Fallbrook and has also been trying to book an appointment for weeks.

"If I got up in the middle of the night for any reason, I would try," said Erickson. "The very day that the Oceanside site opened up, I was on the phone and online, could not get an appointment."

According to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), as of Wednesday, providers have reported administering a total of 3,792,797 vaccine doses statewide. They say, "the CDC reports that 6,343,925 doses have been delivered to entities within the state, and 6,693,300 vaccine doses, which includes the first and second dose, have been shipped."

While the percentage of people getting the vaccine is growing, not everyone who wants or needs the vaccine is getting it. Mounting frustration has led to changes in distribution management.

"Everybody came together and looked at what's working, what's not working, and we identified partners," said Gov. Gavin Newsom. "In particular two nonprofits, Kaiser and Blue Shield, both offering a unique experience."

According to the CDPH, the state tapped Blue Shield of California and Kaiser to build the Statewide Vaccine Delivery Network and focus on equity and efficiency.

State health officials say Blue Shield will "develop and manage a network of providers by executing contracts with providers that meet the State's criteria for the distribution and administration of COVID vaccines at mobile clinics, vaccine hubs, mega vaccination sites, and to at-risk patients in-home."

Other responsibilities include developing and implementing response strategy recommendations for disproportionately impacted communities using evidence-based strategies and creating a real-time data aggregation and reporting platform for ongoing reporting and recommendations regarding vaccine allocation adjustments throughout the network.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Blue Shield wrote, in part, "At Blue Shield of California, our mission as a nonprofit health plan is to help ensure all Californians have access to quality, affordable healthcare. That is why we are answering the call by Gov. Gavin Newsom to work with healthcare professionals to help save lives with efficient and equitable administration of COVID-19 vaccines for all Californians. Our goal is to do all we can to help overcome this pandemic, and it is our commitment to do that work at cost without making a profit from the state."

As for Kaiser's role, the state said Kaiser will secure, plan, organize, set up, and oversee two or more mass vaccination sites and other efforts to vaccinate hard-to-reach and disproportionately impacted populations.

They say those efforts will be designed to serve the public, including at-risk populations, non-Kaiser members, and Kaiser members.

A statement from Kaiser read, in part, "We are pleased to be working with the State and Blue Shield of California to improve vaccination progress in California, and move us closer to ending this pandemic. At Kaiser Permanente, we're already acting quickly to provide vaccine to those who are eligible as soon as we receive it. We have administered nearly 400,000 doses, which is the vast majority of the supply of vaccine we have received, and we are actively scheduling appointments for the remainder. We actually lead the state in speed to administration of the vaccines we receive.

We're eager to join in and help the state's effort to improve the distribution of the vaccine in California, and we look forward to working in partnership with state and local government agencies and other health care providers on ways to get more Californians vaccinated, quickly, safely, fairly and equitably."

According to the CDPH, Blue Shield and Kaiser will perform the work at or near cost and neither will profit from the agreement.

"They have the kind of scale, they have the capacity, they have the allocation and distribution mindset that we were looking for," Newsom said.

How will the state's upcoming move impact local counties and distribution? That's still unknown.

Health departments in Kern and San Luis Obispo counties said they don't have enough details yet. They are waiting for more information on what potential impact this may have on the current structure.

On Wednesday, San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said he spoke with the head of Blue Shield, who wanted a walk-through on what the county is doing and how it's processing all the various aspects of vaccine distribution.

"They are still working to working to come up with a general approach on distribution but conveyed they would work with the county and would support the efforts that we put in place to be the most effective," Fletcher said. "So I'm optimistic that nothing negative will come of that arrangement. But again, the state of California and who they choose to help them in allocation is going to face the same problem and that they can only allocate doses to counties that they actually get, so they are hamstrung in many ways by the same supply chain issues."