The state will give Santa Clara County more than $1 million to help increase COVID-19 vaccine equity efforts, but South Bay leaders say that doesn’t alleviate the source of the region’s vaccination bottleneck—a lack of supply.
The funding for the county is part of a larger $7.6 million package reserved for Bay Area counties that were almost completely left out of the state’s vaccine equity formula rolled out in March. The plan called for allocating 40% of the state’s vaccine supply to the neediest areas—but not a single ZIP code in Santa Clara County was included in the formula, despite East San Jose being home to the most infections, lowest vaccine rates and communities of color who face barriers to access.
Sen. Dave Cortese was one of 20 state legislators who signed on to a letter in March demanding a recalculation of the equity formula.
Cortese applauded the funding from the state Wednesday, which totals up to $1.5 million, but says there’s more to do to achieve vaccine equity.
“This is a step in the right direction, but not nearly all that is needed to assist those that are suffering from a clear geographic and socioeconomic disadvantage,” Cortese told San José Spotlight. “COVID-19 has only underscored the urgency of eliminating socioeconomic barriers and advancing health equity in our state.”
Alameda County and Contra Costa County will also receive $1.5 million each, while San Francisco County and San Mateo County will receive $750,000 each. Marin County, Napa County, Solano County and Sonoma County will receive $400,000 respectively.
The money will come from the state’s general fund and counties have discretion in how to use it, though it’s intended to help expand vaccination sites in hard-hit areas, signing up residents through MyTurn, the state appointment application program, and hiring of workers to conduct for additional vaccine outreach.
The county hasn’t finalized a plan for how to use the money.
“We still need to get the formal information from the state first,” said a county spokesperson.
The allocation of vaccine doses from the state to Santa Clara County is still lagging. The county’s health centers only received 32,000 doses this week, while local officials contend they have capacity to administer about 200,000 doses per week.
“It is simply a matter of supply and demand at this point,” a county spokesperson said. “When additional vaccine supplies are provided, the county stands ready to administer the shots.”
Jessica Paz-Cedillos, executive director of the School of Arts and Culture at Mexican Heritage Plaza, echoed that sentiment.
“We’re grateful for the funding. I’m sure the county is grateful for the funding, but the real issue is we don’t have enough vaccines,” said Paz-Cedillos. The plaza has served as a vaccination site to East San Jose residents since early February.
“What good is it to get out the message if we don’t have the vaccines to vaccinate folks?” Paz-Cedillos said.
Paz-Cedillos said the plaza could be vaccinating 1,000 people per day. However, this week, the site only received 900 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which must be divided between the three days the clinic is open.
Paz-Cedillos said the vaccination site in the heart of the city’s hardest-hit neighborhood turns away between 200 and 300 people per day because of low supply.
The county will only be able to allocate 32,000 first doses this week.
Cortese said the funds will go directly toward providing vaccines to communities disproportionately impacted by this virus. “We have seen first-hand just what an impact this virus has had on our hard-hit communities that are predominately communities of color,” he added.
The state will make another push to increase vaccine distribution to California’s neediest communities, the senator added, and it’s more likely Santa Clara County will be part of the next round.
“I do think you’ll see a different approach to metrics by the state,” Cortese said. “I think you’ll see the inclusion of the Bay Area and Santa Clara County from here on out. Today’s news is just the beginning of the adjustment we’ve been calling for the last couple of weeks.”