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The following article was posted on January 27th, 2021, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 48 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 21, Issue 48

Cunningham questions state's vaccine allocation process

By Malea Martin

Some lawmakers are demanding answers from the state as to how COVID-19 vaccines are distributed to counties, while Gov. Gavin Newsom said the federal government sends doses directly to county public health departments.

Assemblymember Jordan Cunningham (R-San Luis Obispo) and a group of bipartisan state legislators penned a letter on Jan. 21, asking California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly for more information about vaccine distribution, in particular for rural communities.

“While our counties are being told that they will be receiving miniscule amounts of COVID-19 vaccines for their residents, the [Newsom] administration has propped up at least four large vaccine distribution sites in major population areas and has yet to explain where those doses are coming from,” Cunningham said in a statement.

Newsom said at a Jan. 25 press conference that vaccines don’t physically pass through state hands on their way to counties.

“We don’t have a warehouse of doses,” Newsom said. “They’re sent directly to counties, counties to providers, in some cases to providers directly.”

Santa Barbara County public health officials gave insight into how COVID-19 vaccines move from the federal government into county hands, but lawmakers are still probing the state for more transparency on how allocations are determined.

Newsom added that there is “a complicated network” of 5,000 providers statewide, making data collection on vaccine administration a challenge. 

“Some [providers] are very small, some are very efficient getting data back in the system,” Newsom said. “Some are very inefficient, because they see that as tertiary, not even secondary, to getting these things administered.”

At a Jan. 22 press conference, Santa Barbara County Public Health Director Dr. Van Do-Reynoso said doses get from the federal to county level in two possible ways—one of which involves the state.

“The federal government contracts directly with CVS and Walgreens to offer vaccines at the long-term care facilities,” Do-Reynoso said. “The federal government also allocates vaccines to the state of California, and our state offers us a set vaccine number each week. In turn, when we receive that allocation number, we offer it to our community providers, and we retain some as well for our public health community vaccination sites.”

Do-Reynoso didn’t elaborate on the state’s role in determining the number of vaccines each county gets. The letter from Cunningham and his colleagues demands clarity from the state.

“We still do not know what factors go into [California Department of Public Health’s] decision-making when determining how many doses are sent to each county,” the letter states. “Is it solely based on total population size, or is it priority population size? Does the county’s vaccine distribution infrastructure and plan play a factor in determining whether a county will get 100 or 1,000 doses in a week?”

The letter adds that “a lack of communication and transparency from the administration has resulted in mass confusion by both the general public and our local public health officers.”

As of Jan. 26, Cunningham had not received a response from the state, according to his office. 

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