Tuesday, April 13, 2021     Volume: 22, Issue: 6

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on April 6th, 2021, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 22, Issue 6 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 22, Issue 6

Board of Supervisors approves vaccine distribution agreement with state

By Malea Martin and Peter Johnson

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors approved a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the county Public Health Department and the state laying out how COVID-19 vaccines will be allocated, solidifying a move most counties in California are making as Blue Shield of California takes over the state’s vaccine network.

Public Health Director Dr. Van Do-Reynoso said the MOU with the state stands in lieu of an agreement with Blue Shield. While health care providers like Sansum Clinic and local hospitals enter into a contract directly with Blue Shield, “if you are a public entity, like a public health department, you enter into a very similar MOU with the state,” Do-Reynoso told the Sun.

In her letter to the board requesting that it approve the agreement, Do-Reynoso explained that local public health departments must contract with the state “in order to receive vaccines and serve as vaccine providers.” The item was approved as part of the board’s administrative agenda on April 6.

Do-Reynoso told the Sun that she only knew of one or two counties, such as Orange County, that chose to contract directly with Blue Shield. When the insurance company was first announced as the state’s third-party administrator in January, counties had concerns about losing their say in the local allocation of doses. Do-Reynoso said the MOU settles these concerns.

“The state MOU contains all the elements that we wanted, that was not in the contract directly with Blue Shield,” Do-Reynoso said. “The MOU contains elements of local partnership with the state. It contains parameters for us to transfer our state allocation among different county-sponsored sites, and it allows us to give the state input on allocations to our partners, and those who are not explicitly stated in the contract with Blue Shield.”

In her letter to the board, Do-Reynoso adds that the agreement gives the Public Health Department “significant control over vaccine allocations to the underserved and vulnerable communities within Santa Barbara County and also will be able to more freely transfer vaccine doses between county-operated vaccination clinics.”

Blue Shield will still play a significant role, alongside the state and counties, in the continued vaccine rollout, which Do-Reynoso described as “a three-legged stool.”

“The state ultimately makes the [allocation] decision, with local public health weighing in because we have eyes on the ground, and the Blue Shield being the analytics and having the big picture,” she said. 

Meanwhile, Santa Barbara County is in the process of onboarding with My Turn, the state’s consolidated vaccine registration system—but this choice varies county by county. 

San Luis Obispo County signed its MOU with the state on March 30 but plans to keep using its current vaccine registry system. The transition to My Turn will only occur “if and when it’s determined that such a transition will not interfere with the county’s own web-based sign-up system and will not hamper our vaccination efforts,” SLO County Counsel Rita Neal told the Sun by email. 

Santa Barbara County expects to start using the My Turn system by mid April.

Weekly Poll
What do you think about the county opening up the vaccine to 16-plus at some clinics?

It's about time!
I'm worried it will make it harder to get an appointment.
I would have preferred more sectors to get access before opening to everyone.
The state plans to do the same thing in about a week, so it doesn't make a big difference.

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