Earlier this week, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a shift in strategy toward greater centralization of COVID-19 vaccine distribution and administration.
This is positive news, as it will drive efficiency and equity by creating one unified state effort rather than 58 disparate county efforts – an important step toward speeding up vaccination of Californians via a simplified and standardized process.
- A single statewide standard for vaccine eligibility that will continue to vaccinate people 65 and over along with health care workers, and begin to prioritize emergency services, food and agricultural workers, and teachers and school staff
- A unified statewide network (details forthcoming) to align the health care system, providers, and counties to ensure equitable and efficient vaccine distribution
- A reallocation of vaccines from providers who have not used at least 65% of their available supply on hand for a week and have not submitted a plan to use it within four days of notice
- A statewide data platform that helps consumers sign up for and schedule vaccinations when it is their turn. The platform will also help certain providers automatically share data on vaccines received and administered to reduce data reporting lag time.
The unified statewide distribution network will be key to the success of the shift, but details are somewhat scarce for now. We do know that the state intends, through a third-party administrator – Blue Shield of California – to allocate vaccines directly to providers to maximize distribution efficiency. The network of vaccine providers will include public health systems, pharmacies, health systems, public hospitals, community health centers, pharmacies, and pop-up and mobile sites, with a focus on allocating to high-throughput providers.
While California centralizes its vaccine distribution system, the main driver of success is just one thing: a greater and more consistent supply of vaccine from manufacturers and the federal government. On Tuesday, President Biden announced a plan to purchase 200 million more Pfizer and Moderna vaccine doses and increase distribution to the states by millions of doses next week; also, a Johnson & Johnson vaccine may be available shortly. Of course, we’ll need to pursue worldwide vaccination to ultimately stave off pandemic threats in the U.S.
The new state and federal approaches, if they are well-executed, could bring much-needed relief to all Californians and to the incredible COVID-19 caseload hospitals have borne over the past year.