Vaccination blame game: County points finger at hospitals and clinics

Gov. Gavin Newsom watches as the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine is prepared by Director of Inpatient Pharmacy David Cheng at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center in on Dec. 14. AP photo by Jae C. Hong.

Santa Clara County has used less than half the vaccines the county received, but county leaders say the real problem is a lack of data from hospitals on how many shots they’re giving.

The system for administering vaccines appears to be floundering even though county health officials had all summer and fall to come up with a plan for distributing vaccines.

The Board of Supervisors proposed a plan on Jan. 5 to obtain data from every hospital and clinic administering vaccinations in the county. The board expects to approve a finalized plan by Jan. 26.

“We have no jurisdiction over them but they have the responsibility for serving their patients for the county where we will be the recipients of the vaccine from and through the state,” said County Supervisor Joe Simitian.

County leaders also said hospitals need to broaden who they offer the vaccine to, and that hospitals’ priority groups may be too narrow.

“Taking too fine a slice in looking at Phase 1A, Tier one before we get to the next tier means that we are not moving the vaccine out as quickly as we can to as many people as we can,” Simitian said.

The Tier 1 of Phase 1A includes health care workers at the highest risk of being exposed to COVID-19.

Although Santa Clara County health officials oversee vaccine distribution at a local level, the state is in charge of allocating vaccines to hospitals attached to larger companies such as Kaiser Permanente or the Palo Alto Medical Foundation.

Around 1 million of the county’s residents have doctors at PAMF and Kaiser.

The supervisors plan to ask for vaccination data from those hospitals as well as the Veterans Affairs hospitals and other federal programs not under their purview.

Board President Cindy Chavez said obtaining data from those hospitals would provide a better idea how fast people are being vaccinated in the county.

“Part of the reason that Supervisor Simitian and I are requesting this transparency is that the state is communicating directly with the entities like Sutter and Kaiser,” Chavez said. “The U.S. federal government’s communicating directly with the VA hospitals, but that doesn’t tell us how far or how fast we’re moving within the county.”

47,000 shots so far in a county of 1.9 million

As of Jan. 8, the county has only vaccinated about 47,000 people after receiving 110,000 vaccines so far, said County Covid Testing Officer Marty Fenstersheib. At least 122,950 Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been allotted for the county.

The 47,000 people vaccinated in Santa Clara County do not include shots given at Veterans Affairs clinics and federal programs.

However, obtaining data from federal programs may be more difficult than private hospitals. Simitian said the county cannot force the programs to hand over their data.

“If you take just a moment to look at the numbers, we can’t afford to lose a month,” Simiatian said during a briefing Monday. “We can’t afford to lose a week. We cannot afford to lose a single day.”

But neither health officials, nor the supervisors, have come up with a concrete reason for the lag.

On Jan. 8, health officials tied slow vaccination rates to health care workers hesitating to take the vaccine and the time it takes to ship and store the vaccine. However, they presented no data on how many people are declining a vaccine.

However, Simitian said obtaining vaccination numbers is only one step to speeding up vaccination rates in the county.

“The data is not an end in and of itself,” he said. “It’s the tool we use to make sure that we get to everyone in the county. And I think it’s important that that be the bottom line because we can’t simply dismiss this as a paperwork requirement. It is the essential ingredient in a plan that really does address the health and well being of every resident of the county.”

Santa Clara County has 7% of it’s Intensive Care Unit beds left. The county has recorded at least 84,726 cumulative Covid cases and 944 deaths as of Jan. 7. At least 1,092 of those cases and 25 of those deaths were from the last few days. — San Jose Spotlight via Bay City News


  1. Trump’s Operation Warp Speed gets the vaccine done in record time. Then the local Democrats, who criticized Trump every step of the way, can’t get it distributed even though they had all Summer and Fall to plan for it.

  2. Typical bureaucrats. Holding up the distribution of the vaccine while they fuss about getting enough “data”. Sort of like the captain of the Titanic obsessing over the rate of sinkage, instead of just getting passengers into the lifeboats.

  3. Total SNAFU. One minute it’s anyone over 65, the next it’s anyone over 75 because there’s not enough vaccine.
    1. My neighbor, whose doctor is not associated with any big medical organization, went online yesterday (Jan 13) and got a shot from the county THE SAME DAY at some big arena in San Jose.
    2. A friend tried to navigate the Sutter website this morning (Jan 14), could not, so called her doctor who gave him the main Sutter phone number. Long wait, but got an appointment TOMORROW at PAMF.
    3. Another friend went on the Sutter website and got appointments for herself and her husband Saturday 1-16 at PAMF.
    4. Yet another friend went on the Sutter website and the first available at the Mt. View site was for Saturday 1-23.
    Sutter website crashed about 3 pm.
    5. Another friend tried calling the Sutter phone number 3 times, each time getting a message saying they could not take any more calls. Try later. The 4th time, on hold for 40 minutes, was told the first available appointment at PAMF is Saturday 1-23. (That means that between 10 am and 4 pm, one whole week of appointments at PAMF filled up.)

    The Stanford website says, ““We will begin offering vaccinations to the general public once we receive guidance from Santa Clara County to do so. When we have vaccines available for the general public, we will contact Stanford Health Care patients to schedule an appointment. We do not have a wait list or advanced appointments available to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.”

    And we live in Silicon Valley in the 21st Century!!!

  4. Santa Clara County press conference 11 am Jan 15. Major problems:

    – Changing Fed and state info daily.

    – No Fed stockpile exists.

    – County doesn’t know who’s getting what. CVS/Walgreens gets supply from Feds to vaccinate long-term care facilities. VA also gets supply from Feds. Neither is obligated to report to counties.

    – Multi-county facilities like Kaiser and Sutter gets supply from state. County has no visibility into what they’re doing.

    There are over 300,000 county residents age 65 and over and there’s nowhere near enough vaccine for that population right now.

    No wonder it’s chaos.

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