California

New COVID Cases Declining in California, but Vaccine Rollout Among Slowest in U.S.

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Over the weekend, two new COVID-19 vaccine sites opened up in San Diego County: one in National City, another in Oceanside.

Despite the county's efforts to open more vaccine locations, the data across California shows that overall, not enough people are receiving the shot.

According to the state's department of public health, as of Monday, the state has administered more than 2.4 million, out of nearly 5 million doses available. That means only about 50% of the shots on hand have been injected, one of the worst rates in all 50 states, according to an analysis by Bloomberg.

At the opening of the National City vaccine site, NBC7 asked County Supervisor Nora Vargas why this was, but her answers were vague.

"I am really happy we have a change in administration and that things have changed on the national level, because I think the current administration is more committed to making sure we have more vaccines," Vargas said. "I think we are working with the governor to make sure we have enough resources and supply, but the third component is educating the community that the vaccine is safe and that their information is going to be confidential and that they should get it."

Vargas' answer doesn't help the many seniors NBC 7 spoke to over the past few days who simply can't get an appointment.

Mark Smith, 70, said he tried for days to get an appointment.

"I've tried sometimes every hour on the hour, on all the different sites and a 65 year old cannot get an appointment," Smith said.

Smith ended up calling Scripps and Sharp Healthcare. On Monday, he was finally able to get the vaccine through Sharp at the Coronado Community Center. He said the site was very organized, but staff said they may not be able to provide his second dose, depending on availability in the next three weeks.

Another problem in California is the distribution of vaccines to smaller clinics and pharmacies. Only a handful of independent pharmacies in the state have been able to acquire vaccines for their customers.

When asked about the slow vaccination rates in California, Claire Hannan, with the Association of Immunization Managers, didn't have an answer, either -- and her organization's goal is improving immunization access for all.

In an email to NBC7. Hannan wrote, in part, "I don’t know what, specifically, is going on in California. I believe they may be having some challenges with reporting – meaning that they are getting doses out and into arms, but the doses are not being reported as administered in real time. But I don’t know enough about the reporting or other challenges to speak to them."

In the meantime, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday said the state is rolling out a 10-day challenge to administer 1 million vaccines in 10 days and that a more unified statewide vaccination plan will be announced Tuesday.

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