By Eli Walsh
Bay City News Foundation
California has administered just 35 percent of the COVID-19 vaccine doses it has received to date, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday.
The state has received approximately 1.29 million doses of vaccine from the pharmaceutical company Pfizer and the biotechnology company Moderna, according to Newsom.
Of those, 454,306 have been administered as of Sunday to health care workers and long-term care facility staff and residents. The yet-unused doses remain in storage units across the state.
Newsom called the lag in vaccine administration “not good enough” and noted anecdotal evidence of some health care workers turning down their chance to receive the vaccine, but did not have hard data on just how many doses have been refused as the vaccines have been rolled out.
“Regardless of those that are unwilling to take the shot — their right — we have plenty of people that want to take that shot,” Newsom said, adding “we’re trying to address that concern without putting people in a position where they feel like they’ve done the wrong thing.”
The 11-county Bay Area has already received 298,305 doses of vaccine from both Pfizer and Moderna, according to the state’s Department of Public Health.
More vaccine shipments are expected in the next week, including second doses for those that have already received a first vaccination.
The vaccination rollout will also begin expanding this month, according to Newsom, beyond the health care workers and long-term care facilities that were prioritized first.
People age 75 and older as well as education and child care, emergency services, food and agriculture workers will be eligible to receive the vaccine next.
Newsom and state Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said the state is also working to make its vaccination schedule somewhat flexible in the event the number of refusals begins to pile up.
The two said that would allow those with a lower vaccination priority level such as people between the ages of 50 and 74 to get vaccinated earlier than they would normally be eligible for.
The state is “clarifying the guidance that is already out that gives those vaccination sites flexibility to make sure they aren’t wasting any vaccine and then also continuing to add more description to how we make sure we have people lined up in the case that there’s some extra doses,” Ghaly said.
Newsom, previewing his proposed budget for the next fiscal year, said he intends to allocate some $300 million for vaccinations in the coming year with the intent of vaccinating millions of California residents.
However, both he and Ghaly said the vaccine distribution is still in its nascent stages and warned the state not to lower its guard.
“Even if 100 percent of the doses that California has received were in arms already, it would not be soon enough so we need to look forward to the vaccine and the solution that it’s going to bring us as part of our mid-term and longer-term response but right now it’s about reducing our individual and our community risk of transmission,” Ghaly said.