California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday called San Diego a leader in maximizing vaccination efforts after touring one of four local vaccination super sites distributing doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to thousands of people a day.
"Let me focus now on why I came here to San Diego, and that was to acknowledge leadership, demonstrable leadership, leadership that is now truly leading the state of California. San Diego [was] the first county, the first city to put a site together like this," Newsom said from inside downtown San Diego's Petco Park.
Across the street, in the stadium's Tailgate Park, thousands of people a day are receiving doses at San Diego County's first Vaccination Super Station. Newsom was joined by local leaders like San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chair Nathan Fletcher and Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten -- who have been at the forefront of COVID-19 decision-making.
"A third of the vaccines in this county [last week] have been administered just here at this site. It gives you an example of the potency and power of scale in terms of efficient distribution and administration of the vaccine," Newsom said, praising the local leaders who joined him.
San Diego County, partnering with private health care organizations, has established a network of vaccination sites, including eight county-facilitated sites, two hospital sites, a mobile operation utilizing local first responders and four super sites able to administer about 5,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine a day.
But local leaders say supply shortages are hindering them from utilizing those sites to their full capacity, despite having enough staffing and the infrastructure to do so. The shortage is a problem statewide.
"We’re going to need to see more doses coming into the state of California in order to keep these mass sites operational and to keep things moving," Newsom said. "As Chair Fletcher told me a moment ago, they could double the output here at Petco if they had more certainty of supply. And again, the state’s not holding any, we’re the intermediary.”
On Monday, Fletcher announced San Diego County had administered its half-millionth dose since the first vaccination super site opened on Jan. 11
San Diego County is currently vaccinating anyone in Phase 1A, which includes medical health professionals and long-term care patients, and a small portion of Phase 1B, solely those over 75 years of age. While the county is able, according to state guidelines, to vaccinate anyone over 65 years old, there is not yet enough supply for that group, according to the public health officials.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has acknowledged the initial vaccine rollout was unacceptably slow and had the state ranked near the bottom nationally. There’s been improvement and the state now is averaging 1 million shots a week but limits on the supply coming from the federal government means California’s capacity to provide shots far outstrips available vaccine.
As of Monday, about 4.7 million shots have been administered in California. State health officials could not immediately say how many of those were second shots that would reflect the number of people in the state’s population of nearly 40 million with maximum protection from the virus.
Other stats, Newsom said Monday, were trending in the right direction.
One month ago, while California was in the midst of what leaders called a "surge on top of a surge" due to holiday gatherings, there were 50,000 new COVID-19 cases reported. On Monday, there were just over 10,000 cases. In the last two weeks, hospitals have seen a 34% reduction in hospitalizations and a 25% reduction in ICU admissions.
"Everything that should be up is up... and everything that should be down is down," Newsom said. Now, the state's main focus is "to move vaccines out of freezers and into people's arms."
While the downtown San Diego vaccination site was the first of its kind to open across the state, its fast rollout was not without problems. Days after its opening, a half dozen people experienced an allergic reaction to a certain batch of the Moderna vaccine in a short period of time. As a result of the reactions, California epidemiologist Erica S. Pan called for a pause statewide on hundreds of thousands of doses belonging to the same batch. The doses have since been cleared for use.
The same site, which operates fully outdoors under rows of tents, had to be shut down for two days in late January due to wild winds. Also, visitors to the drive-thru station have reported hours-long waits and massive lines of traffic that stretch through the downtown area, that is, those who are lucky enough to secure an appointment through the county's system. The county is now scheduling appointments through the state-run MyTurn system.
The Petco Park vaccination site is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week. It's a partnership between the county, UC San Diego Health and the San Diego Padres.
Appointments must be made online to receive a dose. San Diego County has also opened vaccination super sites in Chula Vista, San Marcos and La Mesa and works in partnership with several other smaller vaccination "pods." You can learn more about where and how to get a coronavirus vaccine in San Diego County by reading this story.