Kaiser moves vaccine eligibility back up to patients 75 and older
Three vials containing the COVID-19 vaccines being administered at O'Connor Hospital in San Jose, Calif. (San José Spotlight / Vicente Vera, Pool)

    The only private health care provider in Santa Clara County to vaccinate people under 74 has changed course.

    After vaccinating people 65 and up for several days, Kaiser Permanente has changed its COVID-19 vaccine age eligibility back to patients 75 years and over — despite California allowing people 65 and up to get vaccinated. The change puts Kaiser in line with the county’s direction to vaccinate people 75 and older due to a shortage in vaccine supply.

    “This is related to vaccine supplies and in alignment with California Department of Public Health Guidelines,” Kaiser officials said in a statement to San José Spotlight. Officials said Kaiser is honoring any appointments made before the change. If there are any changes to a member’s vaccine appointment, Kaiser will reach out directly to that member.

    The shift also aligns Kaiser with all other health care providers in the county that have been vaccinating people 75 and older. Kaiser was the only health care provider in the county to have different criteria.

    “This has been extraordinarily challenging on the local level to manage expectations when all around us the guidance is changing,” said Dr. Sara Cody, public health officer for Santa Clara County, at a county health and hospital committee meeting Jan. 19.

    Hospitals in Santa Clara County this week received just under 30,000 vaccines from the state, Cody said. Officials have warned the vaccine shortage makes it difficult to inoculate all eligible health care workers, let alone elderly residents. County supervisors are drafting a letter to the state urging it to provide more doses.

    Kaiser tried to follow the state’s direction — but did not have enough doses to keep going.

    “With the expansion at the state level Kaiser fell in line, but of course our local Kaiser did not have the vaccine to be able to vaccinate that population and created a lot of frustration,” Cody said.

    Cody and other health officials stressed that ongoing vaccine supply from the state and federal governments is unpredictable and not reliable. The state provides vaccines to the county and some private health care providers, such as Kaiser an Palo Alto Medical Foundation, while the federal government directly sends vaccines to CVS and Walgreens for long-term care and veterans programs.

    “For the moment we have what appear to be relatively consistent criteria between or among Sutter (Health), Kaiser and our county operation,” Supervisor Joe Simitian said. “But there’s no guarantee that will be the case a week from now or two weeks from now?”

    Cody confirmed vaccine supply is extraordinarily limited and varies by provider.

    Santa Clara County’s vaccine website, www.sccfreevax.org, showed Kaiser had changed its age eligibility back to 75 years and older after several days of offering the vaccine to 65-plus.

    Earlier this month, Santa Clara County revealed it had only administered less than half the vaccines it was allocated.

    Santa Clara County released a dashboard this week, with real-time numbers of how many vaccines have been delivered and administered to each hospital, along with how many vaccine appointments are scheduled in the following seven days.

    According to the dashboard, Kaiser has 5,400 vaccination appointments scheduled through next Wednesday.

    Contact Madelyn Reese at [email protected] and follow her @MadelynGReese

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