SAN DIEGO — As San Diego County expands access to the coronavirus vaccine for certain groups of people, there’s still a lot confusion over who can get it and when.
Scripps Health started administering doses to San Diegans who are 65 years and older by appointment on Wednesday.
“I’m happy we were able to get it, the process was very smooth,” said Aurele Gilleran, who was vaccinated Wednesday. “I’m looking forward to my second dose.”
Scripps Health President & CEO Chris Van Gorder said the system will have a number of clinics from the South Bay up to the North County. But there’s still not enough supply to meet the demand just yet, he said.
“The bottom line is we need more vaccine — we’re going to need a lot more vaccine,” Gorder said.
“It’s hard for the patients, and for me frankly, to schedule if I don’t know what shipment I’m getting in next week,” said Dr. Ghazala Sharieff, Scripps Health chief medical officer for acute care, clinical excellence and experience. “I can’t even tell you when your next appointment could be, because I’m dependent on supply chain.”
Logistics and supply are two main problems the state and local providers are facing. California moved into Phase 1B last week, which allows people 65 years old and up to make appointments.
San Diego County isn’t offering appointments at its vaccine sites for that age group yet because of limited vaccine supply. It instead started offering appointments to people 75 years and older on Monday. Doctors, pharmacists, and other healthcare providers may administer vaccinations to those 65 and older, if they have doses available.
“It requires scheduling,” Sharieff said. “The vaccine has to be mixed, and if you don’t use it within six hours, it’s wasted.”
The administration is far from simple. Before they receive shipments, healthcare providers have to determine how many doses they will have and if there’s surplus, who will get it. For example, Scripps Health estimates they will have 6,800 doses starting this week. The batch is already earmarked for those 65 and up who reserved a spot online on their “MyScripps” app.
“6,800 may sound like a lot of doses between now and Friday, but keep in mind that I have over 150,000 patients, even age 65 and up,” Sharieff said. “So there has to be a little bit of patience, but we don’t want to wait. We don’t want to wait until we have 150,000 doses. We pretty much have scheduled out as far as we can until we get more vaccine.”
That is the most important takeaway – you must book an appointment online to get on the list. If you are 75 or older, you can make an appointment to get a vaccine at a county site. If you’re 65 and older, you must book through your healthcare provider’s app.
“Calling your Scripps doctor is not gonna help, because our schedule is all through the “MyScripps” app. That’s how we track you, and we have to have that in place for vaccine tracking. It’s a very highly regulated vaccine, so you have to have that app so we can report to the state and the county.”
Sharieff said regardless of what health care system you’re in, find the app they’re using to track the vaccine.
County health leaders said they intend to begin vaccinations for people 65 and up before the end of the month, pending vaccine supply.