By Kevin Jeffries, Riverside County District 1 Supervisor
In what could only be described by some as the worst roller coaster ride they’ve ever taken, the nearly month-long rollout of signing people up to obtain their vaccine shots has shown the public the ugly underbelly of government being ill-prepared for such a massive effort.
The Riverside County portion of the online registration system initially crashed and burned before residents could even be handed off to the state-run reservation system. Then, when County Public Health and IT leaders responded to the crisis and re-worked its portion of the online system, it worked so well that the state reservation system crashed and burned (but it still made the county look bad).
This recap doesn’t even cover the more serious problem of a massive shortage of vaccine supplies across the state and nation, as we continue to have only a fraction of the vaccine to meet our demand. For today, we can talk about what we can fix across the county and our state, which leads to the new direction recently announced and being implemented.
First, having mostly succeeded in getting front line health care workers vaccinated, the county has now narrowed its focus to getting the vaccine to the population with the highest risk — our growing senior population, starting with 85 and up age group. That roll-out last Thursday was the first time the overall reservation system did not crash, and the online and phone reservations went pretty darn well (only a few bumps).
The county will soon be looking to expand the next round to a lower age group, likely 80 and up, all while the private vaccination sites continue to fine-tune their operations on their own patient bases, along with an effort to ramp up direct contact by those providers who gave the first vaccination to those individuals who need their second vaccination. Does this county-wide operation still have bumps? You bet! But overall, we seem to be learning from our mistakes, and it’s going much better, even though everyone is still worried about the overall vaccine supply.
Now that we’ve straightened out many of our early issues and are evaluating a new registration system to replace the buggy state Cal-Vax system, the state is handing over the management of the statewide vaccination effort to two very large private providers, Blue Shield and Kaiser.
At the time of this writing, it was very unclear exactly how that was going to play out in our county. Will Blue Shield and Kaiser (and their affiliated networks) handle everyone in the private health care sector? Will all the local private hospitals, pharmacies, and clinics continue going forward? Will the county-run clinics/sites be assigned to simply work with Medi-Cal members, county employees, and/or the indigent? Lots of questions remain, and as per usual in this now year-long effort, answers from above are slow to come. In the meantime, the county will continue to work with all the other private hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies to make sure the vaccine roll-out continues.
Kevin Jeffries represents District 1, which encompasses the cities of Canyon Lake, Wildomar, Lake Elsinore, most of the City of Riverside, and several unincorporated communities.
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