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Media Release

Vaccine Supply Shortages Prompt Public Health Leaders Throughout the Bay Area to Urge Prioritization of Older Adults for Vaccination


Wednesday, February 3, 2021


Bay Area, CA – For the time being, the scarcity of COVID-19 vaccination doses throughout the San Francisco Bay Area has led health officials in eight jurisdictions to urge all health systems to prioritize shots for patients aged 65 and older because of the virus' high mortality rate within that group.

County health departments and collaborating health care partners are coordinating efforts to streamline vaccine distribution and administration, moving as quickly as possible to provide shots to the most vulnerable residents. Marin, Napa, Santa Cruz, and Solano counties are prioritizing residents age 75 and older. Similarly, Contra Costa, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties are prioritizing people age 65 and older. This is in addition to continuing vaccine Phase 1A-eligible health care workers, many of whom are now expecting their second doses.

Across the region, most COVID-19 deaths have been in the 65-and-up age group (see table below). In Contra Costa, 82% of COVID-19 deaths have been in the 65-and-up age group. Thus, focusing vaccination efforts on those at greatest risk of death will have the biggest immediate impact on saving lives.

"While we are still in the midst of a severe winter COVID surge, one of our best ways to prevent further deaths is to vaccinate those at greatest risk of dying from COVID, our senior citizens," said Dr. Chris Farnitano, health officer for Contra Costa County.

The Bay Area continues to receive only a small fraction of the vaccines needed to vaccinate residents aged 65 and older, much less the broader occupation-based groups the state has included in Phase 1B Tier 1, including educators, food and agricultural workers, and emergency services personnel. Across the Bay Area, weekly dose allocations from the State of California – based on a formula designed to ensure fair distribution statewide – have slowed compared to shipments in December and early January. With the current pace of supply, it will take several weeks to offer a first dose to all older adults who would like to be vaccinated.

Limited vaccine supply is resulting in a widespread inability to make new appointments, and in some cases, can lead to cancellations of existing appointments. In addition, administering Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccine requires a parallel effort to provide a second dose a few weeks after the first. The need for second doses limits the number of people who can be newly vaccinated each week.

Some counties have had to consider extending vaccine availability by following the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated COVID-19 vaccine guidance to allow for second dose administration up to six weeks (42 days) after the first dose, if the second dose cannot be scheduled in the recommended timeframe. The CDC states that the data from clinical trials supports this range. "Modest delays in the administration of the second dose, if absolutely necessary, would not be expected to decrease the protection conferred by the second dose," the FDA said in a statement.

Contra Costa residents can learn the latest information about vaccine distribution and prepare for when it's their turn for a shot by visiting our website.

Jurisdiction Proportion of COVID-19 related deaths of county residents 65+ as of 1/28/2021
Contra Costa 82%
Marin 92%
Napa 79%
San Francisco 83%
San Mateo 84%
Santa Clara 81%
Santa Cruz 90%
Solano 78%

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