News

California shifts COVID-19 vaccine availability to hardest-hit communities

State plans to double allotment for areas with poor health outcomes, higher rates of cases and deaths

Clinical nurse Anne Panopia prepares to vaccinate Brenda Dinh, 73, with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a mass vaccination site at the Mountain View Community Center. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

UPDATE: A vaccination clinic has been scheduled in East Palo Alto for March 9, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 2160 Euclid Ave. This is for East Palo Alto residents only. Those who are over 65 years old or who work in health care, home health, group living, public safety, teaching, child care, food and grocery, agriculture and restaurants will be eligible for a shot, and appointments must be scheduled. Call 650-665-0482 to make the appointment.

Seeking an "equity" approach to allocating COVID-19 vaccine doses across the state, California health officials announced Thursday that 40% of vaccine doses will be reserved for low-income and minority communities that have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

The preference will roughly double the allotment to ZIP codes and census tracts with poor health outcomes and higher rates of COVID-19 cases and deaths. The state has administered 10 million doses of the vaccine to date, but just over one-third of those shots have gone to residents in wealthier, healthier communities.

Health officials say the new focus will be essential for reopening the economy and recovering from the pandemic, and its success will directly affect when counties will be able to enter the less-restrictive red, orange and yellow tiers.

"This is a key strategy to keep the pressure off of our health care delivery system," said Dr. Mark Ghaly, California's secretary of the Health and Human Services Agency. "As we achieve higher levels of vaccines in the hardest hit communities, we feel more and more activities across the state can occur."

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The initial goal is to vaccine 2 million California residents who are in the lowest quartile of the state's so-called Healthy Places Index (HPI), which maps communities based on everything from chronic diseases and air quality to income and education level. In Santa Clara County, the lowest quartile includes a dozen census tracts located in San Jose. There are no census tracts in San Mateo County in the lowest quartile.

Ghaly said the plan must go beyond an increased allotment, and that the state will lean on community clinics, public hospital systems and trusted pharmacies in the communities to act as liaisons. It also means reserving appointments for residents who are "severely impacted" by the pandemic, and a boost in funding for safety net providers responsible for doing the outreach.

Medical assistant Adriana Castaneda draws the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at Ravenswood Family Health Center in East Palo Alto on Jan. 30. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

With an expected increase in supply and a third vaccine by Johnson & Johnson now approved, Ghaly said the shift in availability shouldn't reduce the number of shots available to communities that don't fall under the lowest HPI quartile. It will slow the increase in available shots, however. The new priorities will not affect plans to extend vaccine eligibility to people with disabilities and high-risk conditions on March 15.

Once the state hits its 2 million vaccine benchmark, the plan is to lower the threshold for counties to go from the most restrictive purple tier to the red tier. Counties will only need to reduce daily cases to 10 per 100,000 residents — rather than seven — in order to be reclassified.

Ghaly called the change a "small but meaningful step" that adjusts to a new normal, following a dark stage of the pandemic in which case counts, hospitalizations and deaths surged over the winter months. But he hesitated to say the state is rushing to reopen, and said that California will maintain some of the strongest public health restrictions in the country.

"We will keep our foot on the brake, not on the gas," he said.

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

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California shifts COVID-19 vaccine availability to hardest-hit communities

State plans to double allotment for areas with poor health outcomes, higher rates of cases and deaths

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Thu, Mar 4, 2021, 11:47 am

UPDATE: A vaccination clinic has been scheduled in East Palo Alto for March 9, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 2160 Euclid Ave. This is for East Palo Alto residents only. Those who are over 65 years old or who work in health care, home health, group living, public safety, teaching, child care, food and grocery, agriculture and restaurants will be eligible for a shot, and appointments must be scheduled. Call 650-665-0482 to make the appointment.

Seeking an "equity" approach to allocating COVID-19 vaccine doses across the state, California health officials announced Thursday that 40% of vaccine doses will be reserved for low-income and minority communities that have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

The preference will roughly double the allotment to ZIP codes and census tracts with poor health outcomes and higher rates of COVID-19 cases and deaths. The state has administered 10 million doses of the vaccine to date, but just over one-third of those shots have gone to residents in wealthier, healthier communities.

Health officials say the new focus will be essential for reopening the economy and recovering from the pandemic, and its success will directly affect when counties will be able to enter the less-restrictive red, orange and yellow tiers.

"This is a key strategy to keep the pressure off of our health care delivery system," said Dr. Mark Ghaly, California's secretary of the Health and Human Services Agency. "As we achieve higher levels of vaccines in the hardest hit communities, we feel more and more activities across the state can occur."

The initial goal is to vaccine 2 million California residents who are in the lowest quartile of the state's so-called Healthy Places Index (HPI), which maps communities based on everything from chronic diseases and air quality to income and education level. In Santa Clara County, the lowest quartile includes a dozen census tracts located in San Jose. There are no census tracts in San Mateo County in the lowest quartile.

Ghaly said the plan must go beyond an increased allotment, and that the state will lean on community clinics, public hospital systems and trusted pharmacies in the communities to act as liaisons. It also means reserving appointments for residents who are "severely impacted" by the pandemic, and a boost in funding for safety net providers responsible for doing the outreach.

With an expected increase in supply and a third vaccine by Johnson & Johnson now approved, Ghaly said the shift in availability shouldn't reduce the number of shots available to communities that don't fall under the lowest HPI quartile. It will slow the increase in available shots, however. The new priorities will not affect plans to extend vaccine eligibility to people with disabilities and high-risk conditions on March 15.

Once the state hits its 2 million vaccine benchmark, the plan is to lower the threshold for counties to go from the most restrictive purple tier to the red tier. Counties will only need to reduce daily cases to 10 per 100,000 residents — rather than seven — in order to be reclassified.

Ghaly called the change a "small but meaningful step" that adjusts to a new normal, following a dark stage of the pandemic in which case counts, hospitalizations and deaths surged over the winter months. But he hesitated to say the state is rushing to reopen, and said that California will maintain some of the strongest public health restrictions in the country.

"We will keep our foot on the brake, not on the gas," he said.

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

Comments

Dan Waylonis
Registered user
Jackson Park
on Mar 4, 2021 at 2:08 pm
Dan Waylonis, Jackson Park
Registered user
on Mar 4, 2021 at 2:08 pm

I'm still surprised that the state is meddling in vaccination distribution at all. Doses should have been provided to Pharmacies and retailers who can provide injections.


Raymond
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Mar 4, 2021 at 2:19 pm
Raymond , Monta Loma
Registered user
on Mar 4, 2021 at 2:19 pm

Wealthier & healthier people turn out to be older folks more likely to die if they contract the virus. Is it a sign of societal inequity that these folks are older? How should we address it?


MV neighbor
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Mar 4, 2021 at 2:21 pm
MV neighbor, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Mar 4, 2021 at 2:21 pm

Kevin, can you track any impact this might have on the MV Community center vaccination site which is located in a part of our community that has many low-income essential workers, but not located in the hard hit areas of San Jose that have been Santa Clara county focus. There have been reports, not confirmed, of supply shortages and no appointments at this facility while other locations in the county are ramping up. Your article quotes the state as saying, “ Ghaly said the shift in availability shouldn't reduce the number of shots available to communities that don't fall under the lowest HPI quartile.” That would be ideal, but it is very difficult to track how allocations between sites and counties are made. Other sources, I.e. SF Chronicle, say this will mean more allocations to LA and Central Valley, but don’t indicate if Bay Area and Santa Clara, in particular, will be maintaining same level of allocations.


Steven Nelson
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Mar 4, 2021 at 2:57 pm
Steven Nelson, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Mar 4, 2021 at 2:57 pm

This is "just So Wonderful", "GREAT", "The GREATEST!"
Hope the new vaccine shipping assignments ARE BY lowest quadrille HPI. And that the state monitors the use into those Zip Codes.
Are the 'community trusted liaisons' in these targeted HIPs being identified and notified? [i.e. Not Good Samaritan HS who gave the jab to Los Gatos USD teachers before their due]
New Vaccine type into new distribution channels will not disrupt the 2 current vaccine channels. But 'government' mucking around with current allotments will.


Steven Nelson
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Mar 4, 2021 at 3:09 pm
Steven Nelson, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Mar 4, 2021 at 3:09 pm

better info? The Cal Matters article on Blue Shield seems to answer the When Santa Clara Co. transition. Our Co. gets Blue Shield organized distribution in 'third wave'/ After rollout in Central Valley, then LA /San Diego areas/.
The article mentioned clearly that Blue Shield will distribute with an equity lens in place. (really Los Altos Hills has a >40% vaccinated rate/ did I read that right somewhere???)


MV neighbor
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Mar 5, 2021 at 12:50 pm
MV neighbor, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Mar 5, 2021 at 12:50 pm

More from another media source on vaccine supply for Santa Clara and impact of new state allocation system. Hard hit San Jose zip codes are not on 400 target list, which is based upon Healthy Places index which was designed by Southern CA health groups to encourage communities to build healthy communities. It measures not just income, but things like access to parks and transportation may make Bay Area low-income communities look better on the scale and means they are less likely to make the 400... Web Link


Brandon Irwin
Registered user
Shoreline West
on Mar 8, 2021 at 7:18 am
Brandon Irwin, Shoreline West
Registered user
on Mar 8, 2021 at 7:18 am

Targeting low income and minority communities should not be difficult here as long as there is representation from those low income and minority communities in decision making processes. Whoever is the local coordinating and decision making body should provide leadership and transparency on who is represented. You'll get more granular 'data' than the HPI can provide is my guess. Also, are quotes really needed for 'equity'? All I hear is pejorative, condescending air quotes as if equity is somehow a dirty word. Normalize it. Good on CAHHS. Dan is out to lunch on this one.


Raymond
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Mar 9, 2021 at 3:42 pm
Raymond , Monta Loma
Registered user
on Mar 9, 2021 at 3:42 pm

Hardest hit by cases per 10,000 or by deaths per 10,000? It seems to me that the original plan to minimize mortality should be followed. Frontline workers have many more contacts, and when their mortality is the highest of unvaccinated groups, they should be prioritized.


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