In these first lumbering weeks of the largest vaccination campaign in U.S. history, Dr. Julie Vaishampayan has had a battlefront view of a daunting logistical operation.
Vaishampayan is the health officer in Stanislaus County, an almond-growing mecca in California’s Central Valley that has recorded about 40,000 cases of COVID-19 and lost 700 people to the illness. Her charge is to see that potentially lifesaving COVID-19 shots make it into the arms of 550,000 residents.
And like her dozens of counterparts across the state, she is improvising as she goes.
From week to week, Vaishampayan has no idea how many new doses of COVID vaccines will be delivered until just days before they arrive, complicating advance planning for mass inoculation clinics. The inoculation clinics themselves can be a bureaucratic slog, as county staffers verify the identities and occupations of people coming in for shots to ensure strict compliance with the state’s multitiered hierarchy of eligibility. In these early days, the county also has provided vaccines to some area hospitals so they can inoculate health care workers, but the state system for tracking whether and how those doses are administered has proven clumsy.
With relatively little help from the federal government, each state has built its own vaccination rollout plan. In California, where public health is largely a county-level operation, the same departments managing testing and contact tracing for an out-of-control epidemic are leading the effort. That puts an already beleaguered workforce at the helm of yet another time-consuming undertaking. A lack of resources and limited planning by the federal and state governments have made it that much harder to get operations up and running.
—Anna Maria Barry-Jester, California Healthline