Officials won’t say how many COVID-19 vaccines have been given in Santa Clara County
Alexandra Murdough, a registered nurse in the COVID-19 ICU unit at O'Connor Hospital in San Jose, gets a bandage applied after receiving the first dose of the vaccine in January 2021. File photo.

    Santa Clara County health officials won’t say how many vaccines have been administered so far in the county, despite repeated attempts by this news organization to obtain that information.

    County health officials are pointing to the state for that data. The state is pointing right back at the county. And the public is robbed of information about how many vaccines have been given as criticism grows around the country about government officials sitting on vaccines.

    Unlike the data for testing rates, the county’s vaccination rate is not available on any of its public data portals. When asked why, officials continue to tell San José Spotlight they don’t directly receive vaccination figures from private hospitals in Santa Clara County.

    While the county has been allotted 122,950 vaccines, according to its website, a county spokesperson said local health officials rely on the state to track the number of doses administered from each private hospital and clinic in the area.

    However, the state only displays the number of vaccines administered by region, which means numbers for Santa Clara County are packed in with data from 15 other counties, including some as far away as Humboldt and Mendocino counties.

    As of Jan. 5, 125,290 doses have been administered within the 15 county region that includes Santa Clara County.

    Despite the apparent lack of data collection from the county, multiple health care providers told San José Spotlight they’re tracking vaccines administered since the first Pfizer and Moderna shots arrived in Silicon Valley in December.

    Joy Alexiou, a spokesperson for Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, said the county’s three hospitals and clinics vaccinated 8,154 people as of Jan. 6. Alexiou said she did not have information on how many doses the hospitals have received.

    Stanford Health Care has vaccinated 13,563 people as of Jan. 5, said spokesperson Lisa Kim. The Palo Alto facility has received 25,636 doses as of Jan. 6.

    The Regional Medical Center did not respond to a request for the number of people vaccinated.

    The county is supplying vaccines to its own health system, Stanford Health Care and community health clinics. The state is supplying vaccines directly to Kaiser Permanente and Palo Alto Medical Foundation because they’re part of companies with facilities across California.

    Kaiser Permanente spokesman Karl Sonkin said the organization has vaccinated 45,000 people in 21 hospitals across the Bay Area and Central Valley. Sonkin said Kaiser does not have information on the amount of vaccines it has on hand.

    However, Sonkin said Kaiser Permanente does not break down the number of people vaccinated by county or medical facility, and referred to the county to disclose those numbers.

    County health officials have said they don’t receive this data from private hospitals, and referred San José Spotlight to the state health department. But a representative from California’s Public Health Department, which monitors vaccine distribution across the state, said it’s up to the county to release that data.

    Without public data on Santa Clara County’s total vaccinations, it’s unclear how county officials can hold hospitals accountable for not vaccinating enough people or using their doses fast enough — a recent worry aired by county supervisors who threatened to penalize hospitals that hoard vaccines.

    The first round of vaccines have been barely enough to cover a small fraction of health care workers, who are in the first tier for vaccinations.

    In December, Santa Clara County COVID-19 Testing Officer Dr. Marty Fenstersheib said only 10% to 12% of the county’s 75,000 acute care hospital workers would be able to access vaccines from the county’s first shipment.

    While federal and state officials have said herd immunity is possible by spring or summer of 2021, health experts say the United States will never reach that goal with the current lag in vaccine doses getting into people’s arms.

    In an interview on CNN, Public Health Professor Dr. Leana Wen of George Washington University said if the U.S. only vaccinates 1 million people per week, it would take 10 years to reach herd immunity. She said vaccination rates would have to rise to 3.5 million per week to even herd immunity within 2021.

    While the federal government distributed COVID-19 vaccines at record pace during Operation Warp Speed, officials with the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention say the number of people being vaccinated has fallen far behind the rate at which doses have been distributed.

    And if vaccines are not administered fast enough, many could go to waste. If some aren’t stored in ultra-cold freezers, they could expire by the end of January, according to New York magazine.

    As of Jan. 5, the federal government distributed 17,020,575 COVID-19 vaccinations and only 4,836,469 people have received a first dose. In California, 486,087 COVID-19 vaccines have been administered out of the 2,057,375 doses received as of Jan. 6, according to Bloomberg’s COVID-19 vaccine tracker.

    Gov. Gavin Newsom conceded that California’s vaccine administration is too slow and said state health officials will seek more comprehensive data on who receives a vaccination by sending out a survey to people who declined to get a vaccine.

    County health officials will announce an update on vaccine distribution numbers on Jan. 8.

    Have a question about COVID-19 vaccines? Email [email protected] and we’ll get the answer.

    Contact Mauricio La Plante at [email protected] or follow @mslaplantenews on Twitter.

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