Blue Shield steps back from controversial vaccine role in California

California
A syringe with a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in Anchorage on March 19, 2021. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

A syringe with a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in Anchorage on March 19, 2021. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

As public health officials continue their push to vaccinate millions of hard-to-reach Californians against COVID-19, they are doing so largely without the help of Blue Shield of California, the company whose oversight Gov. Gavin Newsom said was essential to improving the state’s slow distribution of doses earlier this year.

The company’s reduced role announced last month closes a controversial chapter in the state’s ongoing efforts to combat COVID-19, one that began with questions about the Newsom administration’s handling of who should be first in line when supplies were limited and culminated in the governor’s surprising decision to put the insurance giant, a longtime political donor, in charge.

Newsom said Blue Shield would speed up the state’s distribution of life-saving vaccines and improve the slow accounting of unused doses. But now, with Blue Shield stepping back, the results from that decision remain unclear. Many of the county officials who initially criticized Blue Shield’s involvement remain skeptical of the vaccine program’s efficacy, while others say the company improved the state’s operations by standardizing how vaccine providers reported doses given, allowing officials to more accurately assess where to send more.

“Some may wish to rewrite history and say we just needed to give the existing plan more time. But we didn’t have time,” said Sami Gallegos, spokeswoman for the California Department of Public Health. “The crisis needed a solution and lives depended on us moving faster.”

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

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