State takes reins

Army medic Jenny Rafailov, left, fills a syringe at the COVID vaccination site at Cal Expo in Sacramento on Jan. 21, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

Six weeks into a vaccine rollout largely left to the counties, California is taking the helm in an attempt to streamline a chaotic and fragmented process that has resulted in one of the nation’s lowest rates of vaccine administration.

The new strategy, which state health officials unveiled Tuesday, upends months of planning by numerous working groups. It also appears to be a work in progress: Details are scarce, and numerous components won’t be finalized until next month at the earliest. Here’s a closer look at the strategy’s three main prongs:

  • A new priority framework. In mid-February, the state will begin vaccinating educators, child care workers, food and farm workers, and first responders alongside health care workers and Californians 65 and over. The state will then transition to an age-based eligibility system — but the next groups in line haven’t yet been identified, CalMatters’ Barbara Feder Ostrov reports.
  • A new delivery system. California plans to build a “statewide vaccine administration network” that will allocate doses to providers via a third-party administrator, who has yet to be named.
  • A new appointment system. California last week launched MyTurn, a central hub where residents can learn when they’re eligible for the vaccine and schedule appointments. But the site is still in pilot mode, and currently only allows appointment sign-ups in Los Angeles and San Diego counties. It’s expected to be fully operational in February.

Other aspects of the plan remained nebulous. Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s top health official, said Tuesday that providers will be compensated in part by how well they’re able to reach underserved communities, though what that means in practice is unclear.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden announced plans Tuesday to increase states’ weekly vaccine allotments by 16% over the next three weeks.

  • Government Operations Agency Secretary Yolanda Richardson, who’s spearheading the new strategy: “Our goal is to ensure nothing slows down the distribution of vaccine in the state other than the pace at which vaccine arrives in the state.”

The coronavirus bottom line: As of Tuesday, California had 3,153,186 confirmed cases (+1% from previous day) and 37,527 deaths (+1% from previous day), according to a CalMatters tracker.

CalMatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics. 

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