Santa Clara County expands vaccine sites, struggles with dose shortage
Dr. Jennifer Tong, the assistant chief medical officer for Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, gives an update on vaccine distribution in the county. Photo by Vicente Vera.

Santa Clara County health officials announced Friday they have vaccinated more than 16,000 people since Monday and plan to give 6,000 more shots today in a major effort to ramp up sluggish vaccinations.

County leaders also announced expanding vaccine clinics to six more sites, including one on Berger Road and a new site in Mountain View next week.

But officials say they’re facing a tremendous shortfall in COVID-19 vaccines because of the federal government.

“We really need a stable and predictable supply to be able to predict our capacity and expand our capacity in the future,” said Dr. Jennifer Tong, the associate chief medical officer for Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. “Due to this limited and unpredictable supply, we continue to need to limit eligibility for vaccinations.”

Even though the state now allows people 65 and older to receive a vaccine, Santa Clara County is only vaccinating people 75 and up due to a shortage in supply. Health care workers, who were in the first phase of vaccine distribution, can continue to receive a shot. People who schedule appointments through private health care providers, such as Kaiser Permanente, can also receive a vaccine if they are 65 or older.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Otto Lee said people who are eligible or their family members can make appointments online. He even signed up his nearly 80-year-old mother to get a vaccine this week.

“The process was very smooth,” Lee said. “And I’m glad that she’s been protected.”

Santa Clara County hospitals and clinics have injected 38,946 doses of COVID-19 vaccines into people’s arms as of Jan. 15, Tong said. That’s an increase from only 8,154 doses administered as of Jan 6.

Tong said the county has 6,000 vaccination appointments scheduled for Friday.

But county leaders said they still lack a data set of all the vaccines administered in the county.

The federal government has not shared the number of doses given through Veterans Affairs hospitals and a program run through pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens. Without these numbers, county leaders don’t know the total number of people vaccinated in the county.

County Counsel James Williams said the county cannot legally force the federal government to share its data. “I’ll just call it the chaos of the information flow,” Williams said. “I don’t think anyone thinks there’s any advantage.”

In addition to the vaccine supply shortage, Santa Clara County residents trying to schedule a vaccine appointment this week faced delays, website glitches, hours of waiting on the phone and a barrage of inaccurate information.

“We’re seeing demand outstrip supply and we’re seeing demand outstrip basic capacity like some people’s websites for scheduling,” Williams said.

County leaders did not comment on glitches some people experienced using the county’s own scheduling tool.

Health officials urged people to continue staying at home and following mask and social distancing rules.

Williams said the county is assessing the use of other facilities for mass vaccination sites such as Levi’s Stadium and expect to expand capacity beyond the 6,000 vaccines per day they’re currently offering. The goal, county leaders announced earlier this week, is to ensure at least 85% of the county’s population is vaccinated.

As of Jan. 15, the county has tallied 88,379 cumulative COVID-19 cases and 1,028 deaths.

For more information on how to get a vaccine, who is eligible and how to schedule an appointment in Santa Clara County, visit sccfreevax.org.

People seeking a COVID-19 vaccine must make an appointment to receive a shot. Only health care workers and people 75 or older are eligible for vaccines. Sign up for a vaccine from the county here.

The county says people enrolled under plans with Kaiser Permanente, Palo Alto Medical Foundation or Stanford Health Care must schedule vaccine appointments through their systems.

A list of Santa Clara County’s vaccine sites:

Santa Clara County Fairgrounds,
344 Tully Road, San Jose

Berger Drive Building #1
1553 Berger Drive, San Jose

Valley Health Center Tully
500 Tully Road, San Jose

Valley Specialty Center
751 S. Bascom Ave, San Jose

Valley Health Center Gilroy
7475 Camino Arroyo, Gilroy

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

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