San Francisco to Open Mass Vaccination Sites, Pending Supply

Updated: Jan 16

  • Mayor London Breed announced plans to open up high-volume vaccination sites in San Francisco, which will be ready as more vaccine supply becomes available

  • Those sites will be located at Moscone Center, City College of San Francisco's main campus and The SF Market in Bayview, along with other pop-up sites

  • The City is also launching a website on Jan. 19 allowing residents to be notified once vaccines are available for people in their age group and job sector

  • California has been criticized for its slow vaccine rollout, which ranks near the bottom of U.S. states in terms of the percentage of doses used (27.5%) and doses given per 100 people (2.47)

  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which purchases all the vaccines, recently changed its allocation guidelines for states. HHS will allocate doses based in part on how quickly they are being administered

Amid widespread confusion about the vaccine rollout, San Francisco announced plans on Friday to open up a network of high-volume vaccination sites once more supply becomes available.


The City will open these sites in conjunction the Department of Public Health and the various private healthcare providers operating in San Francisco, including Kaiser Permanente, UCSF Health, Dignity Health, and Sutter Health, which collectively provide care to the majority of San Franciscans.


The vaccination sites will be stationed at Moscone Center, City College of San Francisco's main campus, SF Market in Bayview, and at other pop-up sites across the City.


"We are ramping up to distribute 10,000 vaccines per day, as long as we have the supply to do so," said Mayor London Breed at a press conference on Friday. "The locations are not the problem; it's the supply."


Around 13,000 doses have been administered through San Francisco's DPH, which operates Zuckerberg General Hospital, Laguna Honda Hospital and a number of community clinics. Frontline healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities are to be vaccinated first under California's rollout guidelines.


Many others have been vaccinated through private hospital networks, though it is unclear how many San Franciscans total have been vaccinated.


Kaiser Permanente told Public Comment on Tuesday that it had administered 120,000 vaccines statewide, but could not provide an estimate locally. Sutter Health said it is tracking vaccinations internally, but declined to share how many had been administered. UCSF said on Jan. 8 that it was vaccinating more than 1,100 people per day. Other providers with facilities in the City, including Dignity Health and the U.S. Department of Veterans affairs, didn't respond to a request for data.


City officials -- as well as residents -- appear to be growing frustrated by the lack of visibility into the vaccine rollout, a complex process that has been largely directed by states.


Through the Department of Health and Human Services, the federal government has been purchasing the vaccines and allocating those doses to based on the number of adults in a particular state. California then allocates vaccines to multi-county consortia -- but the vaccines are delivered directly to various providers, who administer the vaccines through their own facilities, making it difficult to get a comprehensive view of vaccinations locally.


California has been criticized for its slow vaccine rollout, which ranks near the bottom of U.S. states in terms of the percentage of shots used (27.5%) and doses administered per 100 people (2.47).


The state says it is developing a data dashboard that will shed more light on how many vaccines have been administered and where, but hasn't provided a timeline for when that dashboard will be ready.


"When we have more to report on its rollout, we will let you know," the California Department of Public Health said in a statement.


On Friday, Breed noted that there are 80,000 to 90,000 health care workers in the City who are offered the vaccine on a priority basis, which means that it may take longer for the vaccine to reach other groups compared to counties with a small proportion of health care workers.


"That tier is bigger for us than it is for other counties in the state," said Breed.


The pace and volume of new vaccine shipments are also unclear, according to City officials. The federal government also recently changed its process for allocating vaccines to states, with Alex Azar, head of Health and Human Services, saying this week that states will receive doses based in part on how quickly they are administering them. Azar described it as a change in "incentives" to speed up the vaccination process.


"The Federal and State governments have put together an incredibly complicated and opaque set of requirements governing how vaccine doses may be allocated, and unfortunately, explaining that system to the public falls to us," said Sup. Catherine Stefani at a meeting on Tuesday.


Stefani introduced a resolution urging health care providers to provide complete vaccination data to San Francisco Department of Public Health. If that resolution isn't itself enough to compel more disclosures, the San Francisco County Health Officer would have to issue a mandate.


In the meantime, San Francisco is also rolling out a website, which will go live on Jan. 19, where residents can sign up to be notified when vaccines are available to people in their age group and job sector.

Image by Jake Buonemani
Image by Rasmus Gundorff Sæderup
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