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Newsom Says California Must 'Go Where People Are' To Address Vaccine Inequities

COVID vaccine.jpg CVS Pharmacist Jordan Tran prepares the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Rose Villa Senior Living in Portland on Monday, Dec. 21, 2020,
Kristyna Wentz-Graff
CVS Pharmacist Jordan Tran prepares the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Rose Villa Senior Living in Portland on Monday, Dec. 21, 2020,

As California continues to alter its vaccination rollout and stay behind its goals, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that the state is taking more steps to increase the number of people inoculated, including the upcoming third-party partnerships with Blue Shield and Kaiser Permanente.

Newsom said the at-cost partnerships between two of the state’s largest health care providers is “on schedule” and is expected to begin on Friday. In the agreement, Blue Shield would oversee the distribution of the vaccine to counties, health partners and pharmacies. Meanwhile, Kaiser Permanente will assist the state in the vaccination effort under an emergency contract.

“That contract, we will make public when it’s finalized,” Newsom said of the deal that has faced scrutiny because it was created without the usual bidding process. “We anticipate that happening later this week, and it will be moving forward, as I noted, this time next week.”

At least 4.65 million people in California have been vaccinated so far. Newsom said the number of doses coming into the state from the federal government is continuing to increase. The state has distributed around 7 million doses to county health departments and hospital systems. The remaining doses and any additional allocations are at the counties’ discretion to divide. Each resident needs two shots to be fully immunized.

The deal with Blue Shield and Kaiser Permanente comes amid an already rocky vaccine rollout that has been criticized for its inequities:

“We recognize that we have more work to do in that space,” Newsom said.
The governor added that for people who do not have the access to transit to get shots, the state will need to “make sure we go where people are. Many people simply can’t get to a large vaccination site” like the ones at Cal Expo in Sacramento, Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles or Petco Park in San Diego.

Newsom said that his administration will announce a new mass vaccination site in the Central Valley in the coming days.

The state is expected to release data this week on who has been vaccinated so far, but Newsom warned that it won't reflect the demographics of California’s population, “because the first cohorts who have gotten these vaccines have been cohorts that have not been truly representative of the diversity of this state.”

The governor added that the state has dished out money to at least 110 community organizations throughout the state in an effort to correct the inequities.

These changes come as the state discovers new variants of the novel coronavirus. Newsom said there have been 153 cases of the so-called U.K. variant found in the state, including one announced Monday in Yolo County, and at least 1,200 cases of a newer West Coast variant.

Still, Newsom said while the vaccination rollout is still slow, the number of cases in the state have continued to decrease. California registered 10,000 new COVID-19 cases on Monday as compared to 30 days ago when there were 50,000 new cases. Test positivity rates are also down, Newsom said, from 14% a month ago to 5% this week.

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