We’ve all been bemoaning how sluggish SF and the state have been at administering vaccines. Though usage rates are rising, those upticks aren't enough to stop Alabama from leapfrogging over CA — making us now dead last in the country for the percentage of supplied shots being used.
Yes, that's correct: a southern state that ranks 46th in the country for access to healthcare resources is, statistically speaking, doing a better job at distributing its COVID-19 vaccines than California. As reported by SFGate, Bloomberg's vaccine tracker — a digestible e-tool that helps quantify how well vaccine rollouts are doing across the county, which also ranks each state's efforts in giving out the shots — proves that the national use of vaccines has increased from 38.8% last week to 48.6% this week. That previous week had Alabama dead-last in the ranking; California, however, was not far behind at 49th place. But those tables have since turned — and The Golden State is now tarnished with that descriptor.
(In an odd fit of irony, Texas, Florida, and New York have each fared far better in the ranking, with percentages of shots used sitting at 56.1%, 51.3%, and 56.5% respectively.)
The reasons for California's slow vaccine rollout are as complex as they are numerous. First and foremost: the state's massive population and size have exacerbated every issue presently at hand. So while many smaller states can more quickly vaccinate their healthcare workers, first-responders, and other at-risk cohorts — those of which should receive the vaccine first — California has to contend with large amounts of people who make up those groups before it can move toward more broadly distributing the vaccine to the general public.
(The "come one, come all" model the United States has for administering flu vaccines won't cut it for COVID-19; the pathogen responsible for the disease affects vulnerable populations far worse than the seasonal flu.)
Then there is the state’s very geography.
As mentioned in a recent KQED highlight on "The Bay'' podcast, the show's host Devin Katayama points out that the CA’s size and terrain have created even more headaches transporting the fragile vaccine to storage facilities. Unlike other vaccines, both Moderna and Pfizer's COVID-19 shots require freezing temperatures most hospitals can’t meet without the installation of specialty refrigeration systems. It's this reason why CA’s distribution of doses began to considerably slow back in December — which was made worse by the fact the Trump administration had no clear national plan for rolling out the vaccine.
#COVAX is on track to deliver at least 2 billion #COVID19 doses by the end of the year, including at least 1.3 billion doses to 92 lower income economies in the @gavi COVAX Advanced Market Commitment https://t.co/J2AoD7ybzO— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) January 22, 2021
Then California saw problems with its vaccine distribution computer software (so people couldn't get the doses they needed); qualified healthcare workers became wary about administering leftover doses to those outside the first tier group (though currently allowed under certain criteria) because of CA officials previously pledging to punish those who try to abuse their power or position giving the vaccine; and a lack of administration sites that will allow medical professionals like dentists, pharmacy technicians, and others to deliver the shots.
California’s vaccine rollout has been a months-long two steps forward, one (and a half) steps back trudge. And it’s now proven so bad in fact that Alabama, one of the country's worst-off states — which still has some of the nation's highest rates of heart disease and infant mortality — has bested us in its COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
However, with the city's plan of opening mass vaccination sites coming to fruition this week, including a recent dip in SF's "COVID-19 reproductive rates," respite is coming. It just can't come fast enough.
Image: A pharmacy technician prepares a dose of the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine to be administered to a patient at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center amid a surge of coronavirus patients on January 21, 2021 in Torrance, California. California has become the first state in the nation to record 3 million known COVID-19 infections. Los Angeles County reported more than 250 COVID-19 fatalities on January 21. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)