California is revamping its coronavirus vaccine delivery system amid criticism over the slow and inefficient rollout of doses, the California Department of Public Health announced Tuesday.
The new system aims to simplify eligibility, standardize information and data, and address the available supply of doses by streamlining the process, the department said.
California has been hit hard by the pandemic.
“While vaccines remain extremely limited, the goal is to build a system to equitably and efficiently administer vaccines when supply increases,” officials said in a statement.
Thus far, 2.6 million doses have been administered in the state, which has a population of about 39 million.
The announcement comes a day after the state lifted its regional stay-home orders, saying that four-week projections of the need for intensive care unit beds in hard-hit areas show enough capacity to exit the order.
It also comes amid an effort to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom by political opponents who criticized the strict stay-home orders.
Starting next month, all Californians in Phase 1B Tier 1 will be able to make an appointment to receive the vaccine under a standardized system. This includes health care workers, residents over 65 years old, and workers in education, child care, emergency services and food and agriculture sectors.
Instead of counties and hospitals running their own vaccination delivery systems, the state will use a third-party administrator to allocate vaccines directly to providers to maximize distribution efficiency, they said.
Officials said the third-party administrator has not been selected.
“The vaccine provider network is expected to include public health systems, pharmacies, health systems, public hospitals, community health centers, pharmacies and pop-up and mobile sites,” officials said.
The new system will continue to focus on equity, and the state plans to make sure low-income neighborhoods and communities of colors will have access to the vaccine, officials said.
In addition, “providers will be compensated in part by how well they are able to reach underserved communities,” state health officials said.
“We have learned that to accelerate pace we need to dial up the scale of our efforts to ensure vaccine supply goes into arms as quickly as it arrives in the state,” Newsom said in a statement.
The state is also launching a website called “My Turn,” through which residents can get notified once they are eligible for the vaccine.
It will also track vaccination data and automatically report information into state data systems. Health officials hope this will reduce data lags and provide real-time information on the vaccination process.
The overall vaccine supply into California will continue to be dictated by the federal government, state health officials noted.
Last week, state epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan said that it may take four to five months to get all California residents 65 years of age and older vaccinated at the current rate the state is receiving its doses of the coronavirus vaccine. Newsom on Monday said the state has tripled its rate of administration of the vaccine.
More than 3.2 million people in the state have contracted the virus, and hospitals, especially in Southern California, have been overwhelmed. In that area, ICU capacity remains at 0%.