US Blue Shield will oversee California's troubled COVID-19 vaccination effort
WHO chief lambasts vaccine profits, demands elderly go first
GENEVA (AP) — The World Health Organization chief on Monday lambasted drugmakers' profits and vaccine inequalities, saying it’s “not right” that younger, healthier adults in wealthy countries get vaccinated against COVID-19 before older people or health care workers in poorer countries and charging that most vaccine makers have targeted locations where “profits are highest.” Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus kicked off the WHO’s week-long executive board meeting — virtually from its headquarters in Geneva — by lamenting that one poor country received a mere 25 vaccine doses while over 39 million doses have been administered in nearly 50 richer n
Following a shaky rollout of the state's COVID-19 vaccination efforts, advisors to Gov. Gavin Newsom have struck a far-reaching agreement with Blue Shield of California for the health insurance company to oversee the distribution of vaccine doses to counties, pharmacies and private healthcare providers.
The decision marks a sharp turn away from a more decentralized process that has been criticized for inconsistency across regions of the state and sluggishness in its effort to vaccinate Californians. It will also mean the outsourcing of tasks that, until now, have been overseen by state and local government officials.
Why Israel’s Vaccine Success Might Be Hard to Replicate
A credible health-care system may be the key determinant to success.It’s the kind of standout success one would expect from the now-familiar stars of the global response to COVID-19—Taiwan, South Korea, or New Zealand. But it’s actually been achieved by Israel, in several respects a surprising country to be the world’s front-runner on vaccine distribution. A 2019 Johns Hopkins study ranked Israel an unspectacular 54th among 195 countries in terms of preparedness for a pandemic. After initially appearing to vanquish the coronavirus, Israel has since suffered some of the world’s worst outbreaks—something that remains true as it celebrates its vaccine advances.
"We understand that vaccine supply is limited," state Government Operations Secretary Yolanda Richardson said on Tuesday. "But we also need to address that the supply we have now needs to get administered as quickly as possible, so we're developing an approach that allows us to just that."
On Tuesday, officials announced their intent to create a statewide vaccine distribution network but declined to identify Blue Shield until Wednesday as the company that will be placed in charge of the program. A spokesman for the California Department of Public Health said Wednesday that the contract is expected to be finalized soon and that the transition in oversight will take several weeks.
Kaiser Permanente, a health maintenance organization that provides services for more than 9 million Californians, will run a separate vaccination program for its members and provide additional assistance to the state, the public health spokesman said.
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With Blue Shield as the statewide vaccine administrator, the nonprofit's employees will be tasked with managing the flow of vaccination requests and deliveries using new guidelines from state officials that determine the order in which Californians will be eligible to be inoculated. Those guidelines are expected to abandon some of the state's more detailed categories of eligibility by employment, instead favoring a yet-to-be-explained approach based largely on age. With Blue Shield at the helm, state officials said the new system will bring equity to a COVID-19 vaccine distribution process that has thus far been dictated by where Californians live.
"We want to make sure that nothing slows down the administration of vaccine, other than the pace in which vaccine arrives in the state," Richardson said Tuesday.
The new statewide vaccine distribution network overseen by Blue shield will comprise a wide variety of locations at which vaccinations will be administered, including pharmacies, community health centers and temporary pop-up locations. State officials said the system will focus on fair distribution of vaccine doses and allow for fast adjustments as needed.
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The vaccination strategy of the Federal Ministry of Health should now be known to everyone: Depending on age and any previous illness, people in Germany are assigned to one of the four vaccination groups. Barmer, with around nine million insured persons, the second largest statutory health insurance company in the country, has this […] © ZEITjUNG A person receives a vaccination.
How Blue Shield was selected for its powerful new role in California's vaccine strategy — and the specific terms of its contract with the state — wasn't immediately clear. The Oakland-based healthcare provider serves some 4 million Californians and has been deeply involved in the Newsom administration's pandemic response efforts since last spring, including stepping in to help improve COVID-19 testing efforts last April after theThe company's chief executive, Paul Markovich, served as co-chair of the governor's testing task force, and some of the company's employees also worked on the effort.
Blue Shield's connections to Newsom aren't limited to policy. The healthcare company, a prominent player in California political campaigns, spent more than $1 million in support of Newsom's campaign for governor in 2018 and almost $1.3 million on lobbying state government in the most recent legislative session.
A Blue Shield spokesman said Wednesday that the company is looking forward to helping "dramatically expand the rate of vaccinations so that all Californians can be protected."
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Many jurisdictions are looking for clinical professionals as well as non-medically trained people to help with mass vaccination efforts. Shapiro, a surgeon and professor in the Department of Head and Neck Surgery at UCLA, was volunteering at a mass drive-through vaccination site in Los Angeles County, assessing patients for at least 15 minutes after they received their shots to ensure they felt okay.
"Blue Shield of California is honored to be invited by the governor to play an important role in helping to save lives and overcome this pandemic," said spokesman Matthew Yi. "We are finalizing the details with the state on our role and look forward to working with healthcare professions to beat COVID-19."
California has struggled to obtain enough COVID-19 vaccine doses, which prompted some providers to be cautious about administering the doses they have on hand. Data reporting problems have also hampered the state's ability to understand the reasons behind some of California's vaccination challenges.
"Right now, we don’t have one California implementation, we have dozens or hundreds when we consider counties and all the different providers,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of the advocacy group Health Access California. “We are currently operating with a fragmented healthcare system where an underfunded public health system fills in the gaps. To have a broader system have better data where the problems can be identified, that’s really important.”
Last week, state officials said it could take until June to provide vaccinations to all those 65 and older. Los Angeles County estimated it would take until 2022 to offer vaccinations to all residents unless additional supplies become available.
These 'vaccine hunters' are getting their shots ahead of schedule by gaming the system
"Vaccine hunters" stalk a pharmacy or vaccination site for leftovers. Spurred by reports of doses being dumped and feeling antsy for the country's vaccine rollout to pick up the pace, they want to prevent waste -- by getting their shot early. They see it as a win-win: They get vaccinated and a precious dose of the Covid-19 vaccine doesn't end up in the trash. But their gain is also a symptom of a lack of coordination in the US vaccination plan -- the initial rollout was much slower than expected, delaying President Joe Biden's plan for "100 million vaccinations in 100 days.
Newsom has attempted to rehabilitate the state's rough start to mass vaccinations, telling Californians to “hold me accountable” to a goal ofof COVID-19 vaccine in 10 days. when, due to data collection problems, the state was unable to definitively say if Newsom met his target.
Amid the attempts to vaccinate the state's residents, Newsom unveiled the website My Turn to help Californians schedule appointments, notify them when they are eligible to be vaccinated and better track vaccination data for California.
As of Wednesday, the state reported administering 2.7 million doses statewide, or 57% of the vaccine supply on hand, although officials warned that data delays continue to affect that tally.
Wednesday's agreement with Blue Shield came two days after Newsom said the state wouldin the next round of COVID-19 vaccinations, focusing on age rather than specific occupations considered higher risk. The shift does not change who is at the front of the line under the prior tiering system — healthcare workers and residents 65 and older, followed by teachers, farmworkers and first responders.
Disability rights groups and the union representing job sectors that will no longer be prioritized criticized the state's new plan, saying a purely age-based system is not a replacement for risk-based tiering.
Bob Schoonover, president of Service Employees International Union California, said the shift to age-based decisions over occupational risks in the next tier runs counter to research that shows workplaces are a major source of the spread.
“Millions of working Californians, most of them people of color, have no choice but to leave their homes and work each day, exposing themselves, their families, and their communities to COVID-19 and its devastation,” Schoonover said in a statement.
This story originally appeared in.
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