“It’s like winning the Lotto or getting the Golden Ticket at Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” said Sonja Diaz of the Latino Policy & Politics Initiative.
The state known as the birthplace of Big Tech finds California’s vaccine distribution slow, confusing and frustrating for many of its 40 million residents.
The initial rollout used a piecemeal approach that relied on counties and cities with their own health departments to distribute Covid-19 vaccines to eligible populations. But that approach has only deepened existing disparities between California’s wealthy areas and the state’s most vulnerable communities.
While affluent regions like the San Francisco Bay Area in Northern California and Long Beach in Southern California were able to efficiently vaccinate their first batch of eligible residents, overburdened communities in parts of Los Angeles and the Central Valley have struggled to meet early demand as supplies remain low throughout the state.
“We’re one of the most innovative states in the world, not just the country, and yet we failed in the most basic ways,” said Nick Vyas, executive director of the University of Southern California’s Center for Global Supply Chain Management. “We missed the opportunity to set the system up right the first time.”
California had administered more than 3.5 million doses as of Wednesday, but it still lags behind many states in overall vaccinations, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The state has used only about 60 percent of its allotted vaccine doses, ranking it in the bottom third of all 50 states.
As of last week, Fresno had the capacity to distribute 30,000 doses a week, but the current state allocation is only 8,000 a week, said Joe Prado, Fresno County’s community health division manager. “There is a significant discrepancy between our distribution system and the actual doses we are receiving,” he said. “We’ve had to completely reduce how many doses we’re doing in our distribution system because if you don’t reduce that amount, we will run out of second doses for our community.”
But even within Los Angeles County, disparities have surfaced in cities with independently run public health departments. Long Beach, a coastal city with a robust port economy, has administered nearly 50,000 doses, covering the majority of its health care workers, and it has already moved on to vaccinating teachers, food service workers, and people over 65.