Only about 1% of California’s 40 million residents have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, setting a pace of immunization that’s “not good enough,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday.
The Democratic governor said the state is trying to execute the massive vaccination campaign “with a sense of urgency that is required of this moment and the urgency that people demand.”
Still, the 454,000 doses of vaccine that have been administered in California represent just a quarter of the more than 1.7 million doses received in the state. Distribution hiccups and logistical challenges — including hospitals having more vaccine doses available than people available to take them — have slowed the initial vaccine rollout in California.
Across the country, the pace of immunizations has gone slower than planned due to logistical hurdles and differing approaches across states and counties. On Monday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said nearly 4.6 million shots have been dispensed.
Newsom’s comments came Monday as the state’s death toll topped 26,500 and confirmed cases neared 2.4 million since the pandemic began. The state’s swamped hospitals held more than 22,000 coronavirus patients, including nearly 4,700 in intensive care units, the Department of Public Health said.
Even as he acknowledged the state must do better, Newsom sought to shift some responsibility for the slow rollout, noting “the vaccines don’t arrive magically in some state facility.”
Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency, said the state assigns the number of doses that local health jurisdictions will receive. The vaccine is then shipped directly to entities like hospitals or county or local public health offices. Pfizer distributes its vaccine directly, while Moderna uses the pharmaceutical company McKesson as an intermediary, which initially led to delayed responses and slow communication, Newsom said.
California is working to expand the list of sites where the vaccine can be distributed to include pharmacies, clinics and even dental offices. Officials are also completing a survey of health care workers to find out how many of them do not want to take the vaccine, in response to anecdotal evidence that some are refusing it.
While the state wants to make sure no one is jumping ahead in the line, Newsom said he wants to give providers the flexibility to distribute doses to people not on the priority list if doses are at risk of going to waste.
“We are working hard to make sure that 100% of what we get we get out as quickly as possible,” Ghaly said.
Meanwhile, most of the state’s population remains under a broad stay-at-home order as ICU capacity dwindles. In hard-hit Los Angeles County, the total COVID-19 death toll has reached 10,773 and confirmed cases topped 818,000. The county reported more than 7,500 people hospitalized, including 21% in ICUs.
Amid the surge, one Los Angeles suburb has reversed course and closed outdoor seating areas on public property where people could eat takeout from restaurants that are only allowed to serve to-go or delivery orders in response to what the mayor called “the ever-changing dynamics of this pandemic.” Manhattan Beach ordered tables and chairs removed from the areas late Sunday, citing a near-doubling of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the city from 425 on Nov. 1 to 821.
Organizations representing actors, commercial advertisers, advertising agencies and independent film and television producers also recommended a hold on in-person production in Southern California.
The hold would last until mid-January, according to a statement by the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and the Joint Policy Committee, which represents commercial advertisers and ad agencies. The Producers Guild of America made a similar plea.
Major studios are already on a production hiatus until the middle of this month.