CA doctor says vaccine distribution not going as planned, doses delayed for vulnerable communities

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By Stephanie Sierra, ABC 7 News, January 5 2021

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — A member of the state’s COVID-19 vaccine advisory committee tells the ABC7 I-Team, hundreds of thousands of COVID vaccines across the state are sitting in warehouses with the potential of being wasted.

“My worst nightmares have been coming true over the last few weeks,” said Dr. Mike Wasserman, the past President of the California Association for Long Term Care Medicine.

Wasserman sits on California’s Vaccine Advisory Committee. He’s spent months advising the state on a distribution plan that prioritizes residents of skilled-nursing and assisted-living facilities.

But, the plan isn’t playing out as promised.

Mike: “There are literally hundreds of thousands of doses out there sitting in warehouses while you have nursing home residents and staff who are waiting to be vaccinated.”

Stephanie: “How long have these vaccines been sitting in these warehouses?”

Mike: “Some of them may have been there for upwards of a month now, at least three weeks.”

According to Bloomberg’s Vaccine Tracker, so far more than 1.4 million COVID vaccine doses have been distributed across the state. But, only around 400,000 have actually been used. That’s only around 28%.

This graph shows the percentage of COVID-19 vaccines used in California, New York, Florida and Texas.

To put that in perspective, California lags behind New York, Florida, and far behind Texas which has used at least 40% of its doses, according to the site. Note: Vaccine reporting data usually lags behind.

Stephanie: “Why do you think the initial rollout fell apart?”

Mike: “Because the federal government didn’t plan for the rollout, they basically dealt the states and counties a bad hand.”

It’s directly impacting nursing homes. Data released from the California Dept. of Public Health is seeing upwards of 400 nursing home deaths per week due to COVID-19. That’s nearly the same rate reported at the onset of the pandemic.

“I’m very scared,” said Julia Zagatsky.

Zagatsky fears losing her 92-year-old mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s. Her mom is residing at the San Francisco Campus for Jewish Living. At least 105 COVID-19 cases have infected residents, staff, and non-staff at the 300+ bed facility. Four residents have died.

Julia is scared she won’t say goodbye.

“She doesn’t have memory, I’ll probably never see her again,” she said. “I do think the campus has done everything they can to help.”

ABC7 reached out to the San Francisco Campus for Jewish Living and was provided the following statement:

“Since March and for almost 10 months, the Jewish Home & Rehabilitation Center (JHRC) staff has successfully managed the first and second surges by keeping the total COVID positive cases well below the 0.5% community positivity benchmark.

This week, we began the critical step of providing vaccinations for our front line staff. This step not only marks a significant milestone in the pandemic, but as one of our RN’s put it, provides a “shot of hope” to this incredibly difficult situation.

Over the past week, we have had four long-term residents succumb to COVID-related illness at the hospital. These are the first such fatalities for our community, and we are all deeply saddened by this loss as the staff continue to work around the clock to further minimize spread of this extraordinarily challenging virus.”

ABC7 learned of another outbreak at the St. Francis Convalescent Pavilion in Daly City.

The I-Team spoke to Steve who is worried about his 87-year-old father who recently tested positive.

“They have over 80 patients infected with 20 staffers infected,” he said. “They’re probably short staffed…I’m worried about him.”

ABC7 reached out to the facility five times by phone for further comment, but have yet to hear back.

Wasserman hopes the state will act fast.

“We need to shut down everything for a month and get people vaccinated,” he said. “That’s how we’re going to save lives.”