California will begin rolling out a statewide COVID-19 vaccine system Monday, making the same groups eligible for doses in all 58 counties.
The state’s vaccine rollout was marked by confusion among residents over who’s eligible for the shots as each local jurisdiction offered the vaccines at different a pace. Frustration over the fragmented eligibility rules was only compounded by technical issues and a patchwork of different vaccine appointment websites to navigate.
State officials hope to remedy this by having the same groups eligible for vaccines statewide, and begin using MyTurn.ca.gov as the main source for Californians to sign up for appointments.
Currently being prioritized for COVID-19 vaccines in California are health care workers, long-term care facility residents, people 65 and older, and workers in food, agriculture, education, child care and emergency services sectors.
The MyTurn website is already being piloted in Los Angeles County, where seniors, teachers, grocery workers and other essential workers can now use it to make vaccine appointments at county-run sites.
More counties will begin using the website over the next month.
Blue Shield of California, a health plan provider in the state, will manage the state’s vaccine network, which counties will join in three waves.
Riverside, Fresno, Imperial, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Tulare counties will be the first to join the system starting Monday. The next wave includes L.A., Orange, San Bernardino and Ventura counties.
Blue Shield will begin making dose allocation recommendations to state officials “using data-driven targeting of hotspots” to get doses to communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19, the company said in a news release. The insurance giant will basically let the state know how many doses should be sent out and where.
Meanwhile, the state will continue prioritizing 70% of doses for those 65 and older, and the other 30% for people working in educational and childcare, emergency services and food and agriculture sectors, state officials said.
Blue Shield has already contracted large-volume providers to vaccinate people across the state, for now focusing on those serving the 10 counties joining the system first.
More counties will slowly join the new statewide system, and by the end of March, Blue Shield will have taken full management responsibility for the vaccine network in California.
The state’s goal is to scale up to 4 million immunizations per week by the end of April. Currently, the state is on track to have the capacity to administer 3 million doses a week — triple what it was in January.
“As the federal government prepares to ramp up the availability of vaccines, we are aiming to build a provider network here in California that is only constrained by the number of vaccines we receive,” said Paul Markovich, president and CEO of Blue Shield of California.
With the addition of a third approved COVID-19 vaccine to the state’s arsenal, state officials hope the vaccine will become more available.
“While supply is still extremely limited, we need to prepare now for a time in the near future when supply increases and hopefully dramatically,” said Yolanda Richardson, California’s lead on vaccine operations.
So far, 8,772,886 million vaccine doses have been administered in California, with L.A. County accounting for the largest percentage, according to data from the California Department of Public Health.