Santa Clara County has given less than half its vaccines, blames skeptical health care workers
Emergency medicine physician Mark Penner prepares to receive the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at O'Connor Hospital in San Jose, Calif. by holding up his sleeve. (San José Spotlight / Vicente Vera, Pool)

Santa Clara County has used less than half of the COVID-19 vaccines it’s received.

The county has vaccinated more than 47,000 people after receiving 110,000 vaccines so far, said County COVID-19 Testing Officer Marty Fenstersheib. At least 122,950 Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been allotted for the county, according to its website.

The 47,000 people vaccinated in Santa Clara County do not include shots given at Veterans Affairs clinics and federal programs.

The data comes a week after San José Spotlight repeatedly requested the county release the number of vaccinations administered so far. While the state reports those numbers on its website, the figures include 14 other counties — including some as far as Humboldt and Mendocino counties. The county pointed a finger at private hospitals for not providing that information.

Fenstersheib blamed the slow pace of vaccinations on health care workers hesitating to receive the vaccine.

“It brings up the issues of people’s fears about the safety,” Fenstersheib said. “I think once we get over that hump and people accept the vaccine more readily, you’ll see that number rise considerably.”

But health officials did not present any data on how many people are actually declining the vaccine. During a recent news conference, Gov. Gavin Newsom said state health officials are still trying to measure how many people are declining vaccines.

Fenstersheib also said shipping the vaccine to hospitals and making sure it is properly stored also takes time.

Health leaders need to vaccinate at least 140,000 health care workers to clear the first tier, said Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody. County Supervisor Otto Lee said health officials expect to start administering 6,000 vaccinations a day.

Santa Clara County has 78,683 cumulative COVID-19 cases and 815 deaths as of Jan. 7. At least 1,362 of those cases and 17 of those deaths were from the last few days.

When explaining the delay in releasing the number of people vaccinated, a county spokesperson said local health officials rely on the state to track 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.

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 county is supplying vaccines to its own health system, Stanford Health Care and community health clinics.

Kaiser Permanente has vaccinated 45,000 people in 21 hospitals across the Bay Area and Central Valley. A Kaiser spokesperson said the company does not have information on the amount of vaccines it has on hand and does not break down how many vaccines it administers in each county of facility.

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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