Santa Clara County’s public health officials now say anyone 65 and older can get their vaccine from anywhere in the county.
The county’s new “no wrong door” policy, announced Thursday morning, makes it possible for seniors to get vaccinated regardless of who their normal medical provider is.
“A Kaiser patient can go to the county, a Stanford patient can go to Kaiser, a county patient can go to Stanford (to get vaccinated),” said County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody. “It doesn’t matter where you go, we want you to get vaccinated.”
County officials said that the change would become effective immediately within the county hospital system, while it might take a few days for all of the South Bay’s vaccine providers to make the transition.
The announcement comes a day after health officials from eight Bay Area counties recommended all health care systems begin vaccinating residents 65 and up.
“Our effort to get more and more folks vaccinated requires both simplicity and clarity and we’ve had too little of both, quite frankly, until today,” said County Supervisor Joe Simitian. “If we say we’re all in this together, we have to mean it.
Simitian said access to the vaccine should not be dependent on what medical provider a person has, or how many vaccines it has within a given week.
This week, Kaiser also announced it had canceled more than 5,000 appointments for patients 65 and up, because the hospital “did not receive the vaccine supplies anticipated” when the appointments were made. The move caused frustration and fear among many Kaiser patients who were excited to get the coveted vaccine.
“Over the last three weeks it’s become clear, from looking at the numbers and talking to other health systems, that the (other hospitals) did not get sufficient doses to take care of their patients,” County Executive Jeff Smith said. “Kaiser was shorted significantly, considering they represent about 40% of the population that’s insured (in California).”
Smith said the recent cancellations “were a factor” in this latest policy change.
“When we saw Kaiser was forced to cancel… We had to ask ourselves how can we fix that and how can we intervene in the best way possible,” Smith said.
More than 80% of COVID-19 deaths in Santa Clara County have been in residents 65 and older.
“We must, and we can, prevent as many of these deaths as we are collectively able,” Cody said.
About 37% of residents over 75 years of age have been vaccinated so far, while about 28% of the over 65 population has been vaccinated, according to the county executive.
“The state’s complex vaccine distribution and allocation system, combined with vaccine supply shortages, has led to an uneven vaccine rollout across the county depending on where people get their medical care,” Smith said. “The ‘no wrong door’ approach we are implementing is designed to get available vaccines into arms as quickly and equitably as possible in order to save lives.”
At the same time, South Bay officials have called for the state to speed up distribution of vaccines, and increase the allotment to Santa Clara County as it faces a slowdown in shipments.
About 180,000 county residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine, while just more than 48,000 have received both doses necessary to offer full protection from the disease.
As of Thursday, Santa Clara County reported more than 103,000 cumulative cases of COVID-19, and 1,473 deaths from the disease.
For the latest information on vaccine eligibility, visit www.sccfreevax.org. This week, the county also began operating a telephone line for residents without internet access or those who need additional assistance making appointments.
The Valley Connection Call Center can be reached at 408-970-2000. The center is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8am to 4:30pm. Assistance is available in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, and other languages.