Limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine likely to slow rocky rollout for California

As California launches massive COVID-19 vaccination sites to speed up inoculations, concern is growing among public health officials that the supply of doses could soon dry up.

State and local officials Friday complained that the scramble touched off by the federal government’s recommendation to add people 65 and older to vaccine eligibility lists has not been accompanied by an increase in shipments.

That could add to an already confusing and chaotic vaccine rollout, and limit the number of people who can be vaccinated in California, just as the state seems to be gaining ground.

California has administered nearly 1.2 million vaccines, or about 40% of the 3 million doses received, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday. That’s a significant increase since Monday, when the state had administered about 783,000 doses, less than one-third of the 2.5 million doses on hand.

But Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Friday that some pharmacies that would have received more vaccine shipments this week have to wait a week, “because the national supply simply isn’t coming.” Jeff Gorell, a deputy mayor, said Thursday that the city would receive 46,000 doses for their vaccination sites over the next few days, but that city officials “don’t know what the world looks like after Wednesday.”

“It’s not a problem with the state, it’s not a problem here locally,” Garcetti said. “We simply don’t have the supply coming in.”

U.S. governors said they had been expecting a sharp uptick in vaccine shipments, based on assurances from Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration initiative to marshal vaccines en masse. Instead, Newsom said Friday, officials “have “reneged on that, or for whatever reason are unable to deliver.”

Trump administration officials had assured U.S. governors that they would soon release doses from a stockpile of vaccines as a way to help states ramp up their vaccination efforts. The Washington Post reported Friday that the stockpile is already depleted, and that states will not receive additional shipments, slowing vaccination programs across the country.

A spokesperson for HHS did not return a request for comment.

President-elect Joe Biden echoed those concerns, criticizing the U.S. vaccine rollout Friday as “a dismal failure thus far.”

A lack of clear information from the White House means state and local officials have been unable to make proper plans because they don’t know how many doses they can expect or when they can expect them, Biden said. He said there were “tens of millions of doses” sitting unused in freezers.

Biden said his goal is for the U.S. to administer 100 million vaccines during his first 100 days in office, including at federally supported community vaccination centers and mobile clinics.

That type of effort will require a massive and reliable flow of doses, and clear communication with local officials who are trying to determine how many appointments to schedule.

Los Angeles County officials estimate that by next week, they will be able to administer more than 40,000 doses per day at vaccination sites that include Dodger Stadium, five mega-sites run by the county — including Six Flags Magic Mountain and the Pomona Fairplex — and a handful of smaller city clinics.

Newsom’s handling of the rollout has drawn criticism too, including his announcement that people 65 or older would be prioritized for vaccinations — creating mass confusion in counties where officials were not ready to administer the shots.

Officials have been inundated with calls from residents 65 and older who want the vaccine, Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said. But the county will not begin the next round of shots until healthcare workers are vaccinated.

The county is not hoarding doses, Barger said, but needs a promise from the state and federal governments that enough doses will arrive to keep vaccination sites…

Read More: Limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine likely to slow rocky rollout for California

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