“I urge everyone to take advantage [of the vaccine] next week, all over 16, ”California Govin Newsom said Thursday. However, state residents may find it difficult to follow the governor’s advice because California is set to see a 15% drop in total vaccine supply and an 88% drop in Johnson & Johnson shots, just as millions more residents are eligible for vaccination.
When Newsom announced the extension of vaccine eligibility to all residents over the age of 16 on April 15, there was concern about vaccine supply. The governor himself has said that the state vaccination program is limited only by produced supply.
At the time of this announcement, a statement from the governor̵
California’s Covid-19 test positivity rate rises for the first time this year
Late Wednesday, the governor’s office revealed that the expected allocations had fallen sharply. This week, the allotment was 2.4 million doses. Next week, however, it will drop to 2 million doses, a drop of 15%. The week after, only 1.9 million doses, down another 5%. That’s over a million doses below the previously expected “3 million doses in the second half of April.”
The supply will be even tighter for those seeking first doses. While this week there are 1.49 million first shots available, the supply drops by 1/3 next week to 1 million and a further 4% the following week to only 956,000 first doses.
The declines are mainly due to a decline in the J&J vaccine supply following a manufacturing failure at a Baltimore plant contaminated with 15 million doses.
Asked about the bug on April 1, Newsom was optimistic, saying, “Here’s what we’ve been told: that our three-week window at J&J has not been affected by this manufacturing problem in Baltimore, which means – let me be specific – that we expect to receive 572,700 doses next [now this] week with J&J, 215,400 doses a week later and 215,400 doses the week after. ”
However, California health officials announced late Wednesday that while this week’s allocation of J&J was at a robust 574,900 doses, next week would be only 67,600 and then the week after 22,400. The timing is not good.
While only the Pfizer vaccine is approved for ages 16 and 17, the drop in Johnson & Johnson doses puts a dent in the entire system, forcing health officials to prioritize the second dose to ensure the mass of those who recently received their first shot will be able to complete their vaccinations even when supply drops.
California health officials point out that these three-week projections only account for about 70 percent of the state’s supply. An additional 30% is sent by the federal government directly to pharmacies, some mass vaccination sites and other entities. Some of these doses may come from supply pools not affected by the Baltimore manufacturing accident. Newsom himself received such a dose and announced moments after being vaccinated on April 1: “The J&J dose I just received comes from the Netherlands. It is independent of it [state] deliver.”
The governor also said at the time that the state expected an increase in Pfizer and Modern supplies. However, this does not appear to have materialized, as overall projections in the coming weeks have fallen more than just the number of missing J&J doses.
California officials note that states across the country are seeing rainy drops of J&J vaccine in the coming weeks. That is absolutely true. The difference is that not all of these states have planned an aggressive extension of vaccination eligibility at exactly the same time.
The last time the governor announced a major extension of vaccination eligibility was on March 15, when he ordered Covid-19 vaccine appointments to be made available to people aged 16-65 with an underlying health condition. This group consisted of 4.4 million Californians.
The timing of this expansion was also problematic. It coincided directly with what Marta Green – a government official who tapped to oversee the third-party vaccine administrator – called a “really challenging” moment.
“When we look at the concrete information we have,” Green said, “the 3-week projection from the CDC, I hate to tell you this, it’s completely flat. There is not a single one [additional] dosage. Not one. “
So the governor greatly expanded the pool of vaccinated Californians the moment the state had no additional supply. County health officials across the state expressed concern – not for the first time.
On his second day in office, President Biden promised local health officials a three-week window on incoming vaccine supplies. Newsom had per. March 31 still did not provide LA officials with projections more than a week out.
Why are three-week projections important? Vaccination sites need to be able to have people scheduled for a number of appointments that match the number of doses that come in. Ideally, it is a process that happens weeks in advance. When that does not happen, you get examples like Dodger Stadium, which can deliver up to 7,000 vaccinations a day, but shut down last month because vaccine deliveries did not match appointments. Thus, the nation’s largest vaccination site had to close its gates for two days.
“This week we received only 16,000 new doses,” Mayor Garcetti said at the time. “It’s about the number of new doses we give every single day,” he said. “It is 90,000 lower than the week before. That is unacceptable. ”
President Biden has also promised that there will be enough vaccine to open access to all by April 19th. However, local health officials in CA have repeatedly encountered state-level bottlenecks. These questions have centered on promises made and promises kept – and around the lack of information on Sacramento vaccine supplies.
Asked in late February about the lack of transparency, the governor said, “Next week, the counties will begin getting their three-week window, specifically March 1.” But March 1 came and went, and Newsom’s promise was not fulfilled. He then said March 15th. This date also came and went without movement.
Last week, public health officials in Los Angeles said for the first time that they had three weeks of projections. However, this achievement was short-lived. Asked about the lack of predictable agreements this week, LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Wednesday: “We are still struggling to release agreements in advance. We are really trying to get a more even forecast. ”
That there is still unrest and insecurity in California’s largest metropolis as the state seeks its largest extension of eligibility to date next week is problematic. And the newly vaccinated Californians, who are 16-49 years old, may be the group that needs the vaccine the most right now.
Figures shared by Los Angeles County public health officials on Wednesday indicate that Covid-related hospitalizations have increased in the past two weeks with each age group between 12 and 49 years old. (Reminder here that the 50+ qualified last week, while the 65+ have been vaccinated since mid-January.) See chart below.
Cases among young adults are also rising across the nation, according to Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Head of the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Trends and data have indicated that cases are rising nationally, as we see this predominantly occurring in younger adults,” she said Monday.
These conclusions were reinforced a day later by Dr. Anthony Fauci. “We are seeing more and more young people getting into serious trouble,” he said, “namely, severe illness that requires hospitalization and occasionally even tragic deaths in quite young people.”
It may have something to do with the increase in more infectious variants across the country and the increased susceptibility of young Americans to these variants compared to the country’s older, more vaccinated population. It’s a trend from which California is not immune.
The state and some of its largest communities are beginning to see some Covid numbers rise again. This happens when the majority of Covid-19 test specimens genomically analyzed in Los Angeles County last week turned out to be variants of concern, meaning the variants are now more common than the “wild” version of the virus. This list was led by the more infectious British variant – known as B.1.1.7 – which this week also became the dominant strain in the United States. The CDC says the UK variant is 50% more transferable than the wild variant.
Of course, only this week did the defeated Newsom announce that the state plans to drop most of its Covid-19 restrictions on June 15, as long as infection and vaccination rates continue to move in the right direction.
If they continue, rising numbers could test Governor Newsom’s claim this week – and last year – that reopening will be “data-driven.”