Though California is starting to see coronavirus infection and hospitalization rates fall, the state is struggling to ramp up a chaotic vaccination program and is warning people to keep up their guard.
The state of nearly 40 million residents is working to smooth out a bumpy rollout of COVID-19 vaccines that was marked by too few doses and differing county rules for who was immediately eligible to receive them.
Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said the state has administered more than 3.5 million vaccine doses, significantly boosting the daily number of shots it was giving out just weeks ago, Ghaly said.
The Biden administration has pledged to ramp up delivery and on Tuesday, CVS pharmacies announced it would start inoculating people in some California stores next week.
But California still lags other U.S. states in vaccinations, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and desperate residents report ongoing problems trying to schedule an appointment as state officials attempt to craft a system that protects the most vulnerable.
Officials made the major announcement last week that the state was creating a new, centralized vaccine distribution system led by Blue Shield, the insurance giant. But a letter of intent signed by the state and the company released Monday shows the specifics of the program are still being developed even as state officials had said they hoped to transition to the new system in mid-February.
The state has authorized health workers, teachers, food and agriculture employees, other first responders and people 65 and older to be inoculated. In a surprise move last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the state would next move to an age-based system, outraging, among others, people with disabilities who had been earlier in line.
The Newsom administration is “reneging on a promise to ensure that our community is safe,” said Judy Mark, president of Disability Voices United.
“What they’re saying is, they’re willing to protect all the people and caregivers surrounding people with disabilities, but not the people with disabilities themselves,” she said.