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Concerns Over Vaccine Shortages as Eligibility Expands

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Vaccine eligibility in California was expanded to all individuals 16 and older on April 15. With the expansion of vaccinations, concerns have been raised about the limited doses available. 

“We’re ecstatic that the tiers are opening up because that means that 100% of our patients over age 16 are going to now be able to get vaccinated. The concern is will there be enough vaccines,” Coalition of Orange County Community Health Centers CEO Isabel Becerra said in an interview with Voice of OC. “I think that’s the question on everyone’s minds: How will we keep up with this increased demand for vaccines?” 

Despite rising concerns over vaccine shortages, Gov. Gavin Newsom said that he received positive news in regards to the increase in vaccine production and supply. 

According to an announcement made by the County Health Executives Association of California (CHEAC), “[California] expects to be allocated approximately 2.5 million first and second doses per week in the first half of April, increasing to more than three million doses in the second half of April. Currently, California receives about 1.8 million doses per week.”

County officials have also raised concerns over shortages of vaccine equipment such as syringes and needles. Officials have compared the delay and limited supplies to testing shortages at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“You have situations where you have the vaccine, but not the supplies to administer it,” Becerra said

In addition to the increased production of vaccines, California has implemented tactics to increase vaccinations in areas most susceptible to the virus. The state is working with organized labor unions with essential employees and prioritizing eligible people within high-risk areas. California is also using health insurance companies, such as Blue Shield of California, to expand vaccinations across the state. 

California began its transition to include Blue Shield insurance as a third party vaccination provider in an effort to increase the network of providers throughout the state on March 1. The insurance company is working with California to allocate vaccination doses with respect to equity and priority.

Existing health centers are required to have individual contracts with Blue Shield in order to continue receiving supplies. Failure to do so will result in removal from the supply chain. However, some health centers have not received their contracts from Blue Shield. Even so, many anticipate receiving them soon and believe it is a transitional issue that will solve itself in due time

The City of Irvine continues to work in partnership with MemorialCare to expand vaccinations throughout the city. 

“MemorialCare continues to be an outstanding partner to help meet the vaccination needs of our residents,” Irvine Mayor Farrah N. Khan said in a news release. “We will continue to work together until every Irvine resident receives a vaccine and we are well on our way to this goal.”

In addition to concerns of supply shortages, there are logistical concerns over vaccine registration and appointment scheduling. At the start of the vaccination rollout, California implemented an appointment program where individuals would be able to register for appointments on a first-come basis through a county-managed site. However, counties are now transitioning to a state-managed scheduling program called My Turn. The transition has created issues with double registrations.

Newsom continues to tell California residents to get their vaccine when it becomes available to them. 

“Getting vaccinated is a vital step we can take to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our community, and brings us that much closer to ending this pandemic,” Newsom said in a news broadcast. “While supplies are currently limited, our nationwide network of providers is ready to meet the growing demand and we look forward to vaccine allocations dramatically increasing in the months ahead.” 

Amy Duong is a City News Apprentice. She can be reached at amynd@uci.edu.