A health care worker receives the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. (Go Nakamura/Getty Images/TNS)

A health care worker receives the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. (Go Nakamura/Getty Images/TNS)

City sets ambitious goal to vaccinate residents by June

Limited supply slows distribution of doses as health officials seek to expand access

City health officials announced at a Board of Supervisors hearing Wednesday that they hope to vaccinate “all 900,000-plus individuals who live and/or work in San Francisco” by June 30.

But the continued challenges of vaccine supply were highlighted throughout the hearing, which was called for by Supervisor Matt Haney. Earlier this week, Mayor London Breed warned the Department of Public Health could run through its own supply by Thursday.

As of Wednesday, just 29,599 residents have received a first dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine and 6,483 the necessary second dose.

“We acknowledge that the process has been slow and frustrating for all of us,” Roland Pickens, director of the San Francisco Health Network, told a Board of Supervisors committee. Pickens is helping to lead the city’s vaccination plans.

“The chief obstacle is not enough doses,” Pickens said. “Hopefully the new [President Joe Biden] administration can improve the flow of the vaccine so that it’s stable and reliable and we can plan accordingly.”

Despite the shortage of supply, The City is moving forward with plans to open its first drive-thru high-volume vaccination site Friday at City College’s main campus on Ocean Avenue, with a goal of administering 500 doses of the vaccine on its first day of operation.

But it will be open only to those who receive their care through UCSF, which is partnering with The City to open it and supplying the doses.

“It is important to note the vaccine supply is really so uncertain,” said Dr. Josh Adler, executive vice president for physician services at UCSF Health. “We don’t know what the even moderate term supply chain will be for that site. But we are starting with Friday and hopefully beyond. We’ve got a couple of days left to get more vaccine in.”

“One of the key points in planning and implementing any of these mass programs is being able to know when vaccine is coming,” he added. “That has really been a struggle to date.”

City officials hope to expand the pool of potential vaccine recipients served by the City College site, but did not give a date during the hearing for when that would occur.

Based on state guidelines, Adler said the initial candidates would be people over the age of 75 “or maybe 65 initially” along with “health care workers who are still looking for an option.”

Ultimately, The City plans to have residents sign up on a city-run site and schedule an appointment for vaccination at the drive-through site regardless of their insurance or if they are uninsured. The same goes for the other two large sites the city plans to open by Feb. 1, the San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market in the Bayview and Moscone Center in the South of Market area, also in partnership with private health care providers.

The limited supply of doses has limited who can receive them per state guidelines and how fast medical professionals can get them into the arms of residents.

Local health departments and health providers receive vaccine doses from the state, which orders them from the federal government. This process has led to an unpredictable supply, city officials said. There is also a lack of data sharing among the different health care providers, making it challenging for The City to know how many vaccine doses everyone has received and administered, but this has improved in recent days with the issuance of a health order requiring the data.

Currently, UCSF and other health providers are in the process of vaccinating the groups of people prioritized by the state including health care workers and those over the age of 75. They are allowed to vaccinate those 65 and older, but they said supply is preventing that.

Rob Nordgren, CEO for Sutter Bay Medical Foundation, said they cover about 200,000 patients in San Francisco and have administered 7,500 doses to employees and 1,000 doses to patients.

“We just opened up to 75 and above,” Nordgren said. “Until we have more certainty over vaccine supply, we don’t want to open up to populations that we can’t really get to quickly. The biggest barrier there is the supply.”

He said that if they got more supply they could administer them quickly, and mass vaccination sites will be key moving forward.

“If thousands of vaccines parachuted in today, we could very quickly get more vaccine out to people in our existing infrastructure and footprint,” Nordgren said. “In the days and weeks to come, I think these mass vaccination centers are going to be really the critical hubs.”

Haney called for the hearing after criticizing The City for failing to launch mass vaccination sites when other cities had, but called the the vaccination goal and plan for the centralized appointment system “very positive and hopeful.”

He plans to introduce legislation next week that would require the Department of Public Health to develop and disclose to the public “a comprehensive vaccination plan.”

Haney noted that the health order issued by the department requesting vaccine data also requires large healthcare providers to submit by Feb. 1 a plan for vaccinating their patients.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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