On Friday, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that the state will receive a large shipment of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine.
“The three-week preview we that were given by the Biden Administration: 380,300 next week, the week after and the week after. So it’s consistent,” said the governor. “By the way, they update that allocation every week, so those numbers are subject to change.”
NEW: CA is expecting 380,000 doses of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine as early as next week.
We expect that number to increase as supply becomes more available.
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) February 26, 2021
Newsom’s announcement presumes the J&J vaccine is approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
An FDA advisory committee meets Friday to review the vaccine, setting the stage for FDA authorization as early as this weekend.
The J&J shot would be the United States’ third authorized vaccine against the virus. And from Newsom’s comments, it sounds like the company has doses at the ready to roll.
But the governor’s predictions about vaccine allotments haven’t always held up.
On his second day in office, President Joe Biden promised to provide state and local health officials a three-week window into how many vaccine doses were on the way.
“Until now we’ve had to guess how much vaccine to expect for the next week, and that’s what the governors had to do: ‘How much am I getting next week?’ ” Biden said. “This is unacceptable. Lives are at stake here.”
Local health officials who are running vaccine efforts on the ground in California, however, have repeatedly said they are not getting that three-week window.
An embattled California Governor Gavin Newsom has moved to quickly expand the number of vaccination sites — from drug stores like CVS to super sites like those at stadiums where the Oakland A’s and San Diego padres usually play — and the number available vaccines seemed to shrink — especially in Los Angeles — as more sites were inagurated.
“It is a little bit of Hunger Games out there,” said LA Mayor Eric Garcetti on February 10. “We’re doing kind of an ‘all the above approach.’ I think part of this is we’ve gone to so many places without the supply matching that, that you’ve seen some of the core places…like ours and the county mega sites not have as much supply.”
Garcetti also said he wasn’t clear why the city received so few doses that week.
“Doesn’t mean we haven’t asked, doesn’t mean the state isn’t trying. But you know the federal government is saying 11 million doses are going out. There’s something screwed up in the system,” he said.
“I’m not pointing fingers, I’m here to help, but I need everybody to help me too so that we aren’t put in that position of suddenly going dark on the biggest vaccination center in the world.
“In a briefing from our county partners this morning,” said the mayor, “we learned that other cities with smaller populations are receiving more doses than our entire county with a larger population. When we look to places that have lower cases, we see 50% more doses going to other cities. I don’t want to take a single dose away from them, but if only fair that Los Angeles gets a steady supply to meet the moment of our need.”
This week, just over a month after Biden made that promise, the top health official in the nation’s largest county — Los Angeles — didn’t even know how many doses she was getting next week.
“Today is Wednesday and we have no idea how many doses we’re going to get next week,” said LA Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. “Right now we’re still operating week to week.”
But Newsom has repeatedly seemed quite clear how many doses would be received the following week. On Friday, he said the state would administer about 1.4 million doses this week. He expects 1.55 million next week, and 1.6 million the week after.
So since the state determines county allotments from the numbers given to it by the federal government, the sticking point on the three week figures seems to be at Newsom’s level.
Asked about that, the governor said again on Friday, “Next week the counties will start getting their three-week window, specifically March 1st.”
March 1st is the day that Blue Shield is set to take over the state’s vaccine distribution system. But that doesn’t help LA officials to plan for next week.
Shortly after Newsom’s midday news conference, however, came a tweet from KTLA California Capitol Correspondent Ashley Zavala reporting that on a conference call, “Blue Shield, officials say California’s new state-wide vaccine distribution network will be fully operational at the end of March.”
On call with state health leaders, CEO of Blue Shield, officials say California's new state-wide vaccine distribution network will be fully operational at the end of March.
— Ashley Zavala (@ZavalaA) February 26, 2021
Given the bedlam over vaccine distribution, it’s hard to imagine a partially-operational vaccine distribution network will be able to give local health officials the visibility they need to plan three weeks out.
“We need to know how many doses we’re going to get before we can make appointments,” said Ferrer.
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