Scripps Health joined Tuesday a select few San Diego County health systems that have started administering the COVID-19 vaccine to residents 65 and older.
When California opened up vaccines beyond the Phase 1A group -- critical health care workers, nursing home workers and their patients -- to include anyone 65 and older, San Diego County public health officials were quick to admit they did not yet have enough vaccines for the expansion.
But health care systems that have extra doses of the vaccine available are able to go at their own pace, the county said. Scripps Health on Tuesday said they were one of them.
Scripps Health will begin administering the COVID-19 vaccine starting Wednesday to patients 65 and older with an appointment. Dr. Ghazala Sharieff, Chief Medical Officer for Acute Care, said within a few hours of the announcement, they already had 6,800 patients scheduled for appointments.
Patients will be notified through the MyScripps portal if they are eligible for the vaccine. Appointments will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis from there at select clinics.
"Patients unable to secure a vaccine appointment during these clinics will be notified when additional appointments become available," the health group said. "Scripps patients are asked not to call their physicians’ offices as they cannot schedule these vaccines."
The health group said the doses that will be used on patients 65 and older were leftover from their efforts to vaccinate their health care workers -- about 1,000 in all.
Coronavirus Deaths in Your City and State — and Across the US
These charts use daily coronavirus death data from Johns Hopkins University to show the seven-day moving average of deaths at the city, state and country level.
The impact of coronavirus varies enormously in the United States from one place to another.
Source: Johns Hopkins University. Data for San Diego also includes Imperial County.
Credit: Visuals by Amy O’Kruk/NBC, data analysis by Ron Campbell/NBC
No extra doses have yet been provided from the federal or local government for the 65+ group. Sharieff said by scheduling so many appointments, they were taking "a bit of a leap of faith" that the doses were coming through their government partnerships.
While Sharieff acknowledges that 6,800 patients is a large number, there are still tens of thousands of patients in their system that are still anxiously waiting for the vaccine.
"I can't get everybody right away but it's a start, so I want to just ask for a little bit of patience," Sharieff said. "The fact that we're rolling this out as quickly as we can is exciting. As soon as we get more vaccine, will open up our clinics."
UC San Diego Health is, as of Tuesday, the only other health system able to facilitate vaccinations of the 65+ group. They hoped to vaccinate about 500 patients a day at their facilities "in addition to the nearly 10,000 UC San Diego Health employees who have already received their first doses in Phase 1A."
The health care system was prioritizing those with co-morbidities and those at severe risk for COVID-19 infection, and contacting those patients directly.
Kaiser Permanente, on the other hand, was still only vaccinating health care workers and senior care workers and their patients due to their limited supply of vaccines.
"The recent expansion of eligibility by the state to include individuals over 65 years old has challenged the entire health system including Kaiser Permanente," a spokesperson for Kaiser said in a statement to NBC 7.
The hospital says they're received an average of 40,000 single doses of the vaccine a week for their entire statewide system, which is still only enough to accommodate the Phase 1A group.
San Diego County's public health system was making moves to vaccinate the region's older population but was still unable to open up vaccinations to everyone 65 and older. On Monday, officials announced they would open up their vaccination sites to those 75 and older, creating a mess of confusion at the large "Vaccination Super Center" at Petco Park.
Officials said the move was prompted by a slowdown at COVID-19 vaccination sites as well as efforts to vaccinate the people most at risk for complications from the coronavirus. San Diegans who fall into the eligible group and cannot receive an appointment through their health care provider can create appointments here.
San Diego County said as more doses become available next month, vaccinations will expand to more than 600,000 people in group Phase 1B.