San Francisco plans to launch three high-volume sites to manage the rollout of two COVID-19 vaccines, with the goal of reaching 10,000 people a day, Mayor London Breed announced Friday. The sites will operate in addition to existing medical facilities and smaller, pop-up sites to create a citywide vaccination network.
However, the launch of the sites, at San Francisco City College’s main campus in the Ingleside district, Moscone Center south of Market and the SF Market in the Bayview, depends heavily on how many vaccine doses the city receives, an element Breed said is out of her control. Nevertheless, the first site at City College is expected to open next week.
California is vaccinating people in Phase 1A, which includes frontline health care workers, such as those who work in long-term care facilities or hospitals.
“It’s important to remember that we have a massive world class hospital system that anchors the entire region,” Breed said. “But it also means we have between 80 to 90,000 frontline health care workers in the city. So that tier is bigger for us than it is for other counties in this state.”
At the same time, predicting the influx of vaccines is nearly impossible. “Our vaccine supply, what we’re allocated to from the state, which we have no control over, jumps up and down,” said Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health. “So what we receive fluctuates week by week, and sometimes day by day.”
According to Colfax, the city was recently informed by the state that 1,700 vaccines would be sent to the city next week. A few weeks ago 11,000 vaccines were delivered.
“It’s very hard to plan for this,” he said. “But our commitment is to getting vaccines into arms as quickly as possible.”
Separately from the phased rollout, plans were recently announced to begin vaccinations for anyone age 65 or over. To adequately reach everyone in that population, collaborations with private medical providers is essential, Breed said.
“Since the state is giving vaccines directly to a number of different health care entities in addition to the Department of Public Health, the majority of doses aren’t controlled by the city and county of San Francisco,” she said. “So we have vaccines being distributed in San Francisco from a number of different sources, which I know can be quite confusing. People are tired, they are scared and they just want to know what they can do to get the vaccine. That’s why we are working with our private partners to create a network of sites to bring all of these different groups and efforts together.”
In the past week, frustration has risen as people over age 65 have waited for hours on the phone with Kaiser Permanente, trying to set up appointments for vaccinations.
Zack Ruskin, a journalist in San Francisco, tweeted that his father spent hours on the phone with Kaiser before giving up. “My dad gave up after 5 hours and is now saying he won’t try again because ‘there has to be a better way.’ He’s 80,” Ruskin wrote. “The fact that there isn’t actually a better way is infuriating and a dereliction of the duty our elected officials have to protect and inform their citizens.”
As a response to a lack of clarity around the rollout, Supervisor Matt Haney called for a hearing on vaccine distribution, which will be held Wednesday.
In an effort to mitigate some of the confusion, the city plans to launch a centralized site for vaccination information. Starting Tuesday, residents can visit sf.gov/vaccine to enter their information. “When it is your turn to be vaccinated, you will be contacted with what you should do to make that happen,” Breed said.
This latest round of information about the vaccine rollout comes as San Francisco experiences the worst COVID-19 infection rate since the beginning of the pandemic. “Our cases, again, are higher than they’ve ever been before,” Colfax said, noting that while the city still has 26% of its Intensive Care Unit beds available, “that capacity could well go down in the next couple of weeks.”