From supply shortages to data problems, California’s early vaccine rollout was filled with questions. But are we recovering?
LA Times Investigative Reporter Maya Lau and Staff Writer Laura Nelson joined us to explain what went wrong.
The Biden administration says it has secured enough doses to vaccinate everyone in the United States.
“They say they are in the process of securing 600 million doses –possibly even more—and that is both Pfizer and Moderna. They say they are on track and that those doses should be coming in the spring and the summer. But, at the current pace, they are not producing quite enough to meet those goals. But the companies are promising that the supply is there; the government is promising the supply is there. I think it is just a matter of them ramping up production and continuing to send out on a more consistent basis, which has been one of the problems in the past,” said Lau.
People who get the first dose of the vaccine must get the second dose to be fully inoculated.
“The first shot does give you some protection, but it is much less effective than once you’ve gotten the booster. So, health departments are having to prioritize people who are getting their second shot to make sure that the first shots they gave those people do not go to waste. Now, as more supply starts to come into California, reserving those doses for people who need the second shot will become less of an issue. But now that supply is limited, they have to make sure those doses are set aside,” added Nelson.
The federal government is opening two vaccination sites. One will be at Cal State Los Angeles and the second one will be at the Oakland Coliseum.
“That is expected to really help. We will not have to rely on local resources as much. We will have these federal resources; we will have federal troops to come in. And, again, it is just waiting on the supplies coming in, but at least we are building out the infrastructure so that when supply opens, there will be a mad dash, and you need to have systems in place to handle all these people coming in,” said Lau.
The new vaccine centers will help some of the state’s communities most hard hit by the pandemic.
“There is some rough data that has come out that shows there are massive racial disparities in terms of who has already gotten the vaccine. For example, among Black residents, only 7% of people age 65 and older have gotten the vaccine. But among white senior citizens, 17% have received it, and 18% of Asian-Americans have received it. So, there is a big gap between some racial groups and others in terms of who has access to the vaccine early,” added Nelson.
Kaiser Permanente will have a separate vaccination program for its members in California. The data they receive will help the state figure out who needs a second dose and keep track of who needs to be prioritized.
“The potential value of a company like Kaiser doing this with their members is that they know their members, they can track them down, they know what kind of health issues they have, and how old they are. One of the problems we saw is that a lot of seniors had trouble signing up for vaccines. The whole system is biased toward young people who are already online. Meanwhile, you have seniors; I mean, I have heard stories of seniors showing up for walk-up shots because they heard they can get them, but they end up getting turned away and are told they need to sign up online. And some of these people did not understand what the internet was. So that has been a big problem, this assumption that everything will be online. That does not work for some people; not everyone is online. Hopefully, these new steps will have offline methods to find people and prioritize the right people getting the shots first,” said Lau.
Though things are improving now, California's early COVID-19 vaccine rollout was among the worst in the nation -- a low per-capita vaccination rate, and tens of thousands of doses sitting unused. So what exactly went wrong? My latest with @mayalau: https://t.co/6GWTLb113g— Laura J. Nelson 🦅 (@laura_nelson) February 2, 2021