Written by Konnor Long (News Writer)
California is facing devastation as officials shine a light on the poor vaccine roll-out plan.
As of this last Tuesday, California is expected to pass New York’s death toll pertaining to COVID-19 related deaths. This projection came quickly after official counts put California at 44,494 deaths, and it is expected to be quickly rising. County and state representatives have announced that they expect to extend vaccination rollout for providers such as CVS Pharmacy to Friday, February 12th. Amid rising concerns about future spikes in COVID-19 epicenters throughout the state, many citizens have expressed concern about how state officials have purportedly handled the vaccination process.
The state recently did away with multiple eligibility proposals that aimed to prioritize the vaccination of marginalized populations that faced the greatest exposure risk. Californians from Poor, Latino, and African-American backgrounds have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, by a margin of up to 40% according to the California Department of Public Health. Many members of low-income communities and essential workforces were initially promised swift implementation, which seemed to have coincided with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s call to distribute vaccines with an “equity lens.”
The criteria under which the most equitable method is being determined has come into question, with expanding vaccine eligibility to the statewide elderly population. With an estimated 6.2 million new members being included in this plan, previous plans are required to be reevaluated to appropriately partition vaccine resources. This includes large budget cuts to disproportionately affected communities’ former distribution plans.
The current expected distribution method is to allocate vaccines to privately-owned third-party administrators, wherein specific pharmacies and clinics will have certain freedoms with which to determine the most effective application of vaccines. Contracts with Blue Shield of California, a non-profit association, are currently pending. When asked on the matter during an NPR interview, California’s Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke Harris stated that “[third-party administrators] are currently being negotiated.” Critics of the current plan have voiced concerns toward the unclear nature of this plan, as well as a largely unforeseen future for the general public.
The Biden administration has made moves to provide certain health standards to California’s disenfranchised citizens, with the creation of a health equity task force. Its interest is to address the possible shortcomings of state mandates, by allocating vaccine resources to clinics, as well as to larger public infrastructure. Grassroots activists who have been advocating for the rights of specific at-risk populations, including disabled and homeless groups, have met potential evaluation, and mobilization of specific plans by Newsom’s administration. The question politicians need to answer is how to prioritize access to the vaccine which will have the greatest impact.