As California anticipates a massive expansion in COVID-19 vaccine supply starting in May, the state has announced it will provide $7.6 million to nine Bay Area counties to build out vaccination sites in some of their hardest-hit communities.
The March 31 announcement by Gov. Gavin Newsom and members of the California Legislature would pump $1.5 million each into Santa Clara, Contra Costa and Alameda counties; $750,000 each into San Mateo and San Francisco counties; and $400,000 each to Marin, Napa, Solano and Sonoma counties, according to a press release from the State Legislature.
The state expects to receive 4 million vaccine doses per week starting in the middle of May through the beginning of June. The goal of the funding is to accelerate COVID-19 vaccinations to communities that have been disproportionately affected by the deadly virus. The money can be used to expand vaccination sites in the most vulnerable areas, hire culturally competent outreach workers or sign up residents for vaccination appointments through the state's MyTurn website, according to the press release.
The funding is a turnaround from the state's prior ZIP code-based vaccine distribution to its hardest-hit communities, which excluded Santa Clara and San Mateo counties and others in the Bay Area. Some of the most vulnerable residents share a ZIP code with wealthier neighborhoods and were ignored through the state's averaging system.
Santa Clara County leaders said the state system was disastrous to their efforts to reach disproportionately affected communities. They signed a joint letter to the state with the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, Marin and Napa asking to follow the template the state agreed to for a memorandum of understanding with Los Angeles County. That memorandum allowed the county to bypass signing an agreement with the state's third-party vaccine administrator, health insurer Blue Shield of California, and to amend the agreement to work with the state.
Santa Clara County successfully signed the amended memorandum on March 24, which gives it more flexibility to target communities most in need for the vaccines rather than to rigidly adhere to the state's formula.
Funding should be accessible to counties that have signed the memorandum as soon as next week, according to Wednesday's announcement.
On Monday, Becker urged the state to immediately expand vaccine eligibility to all residents in San Mateo County's hardest-hit communities. He noted that East Palo Alto has lagged behind in vaccine access, yet has one of the highest infection rates in the county.
"Communities like East Palo Alto are home to large numbers of essential frontline workers who have heroically stepped up and supported all of us through the entire pandemic but remain largely unvaccinated.
"I urge the state to immediately expand vaccine eligibility to all residents of East Palo Alto, North Fair Oaks, Belle Haven, and other communities that have been disproportionately impacted during the pandemic. For example, if you are 16 or older and live in East Palo Alto you would be eligible. This would simplify access in these communities and cause more to come forward and be vaccinated," he said in the March 29 statement.
Becker expressed his satisfaction with the funding in a tweet on Wednesday that said in part, "TY @GavinNewsom for working with Bay Area Caucus to make this happen."
Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.