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Can you choose your COVID vaccine? Which Sacramento clinics get doses? Here's what we know

Sacramento Bee - 4/9/2021

Apr. 9—Frustrated about getting your COVID-19 vaccine? Don't know why your provider is in short supply? Wondering whether you can get a dose in a neighboring county? Can you choose which vaccine you get?

These are among the questions you asked The Sacramento Bee to answer. Let's get to them:

Q: Who decides how much vaccine is sent to clinics? Specifically, why isn't Kaiser getting enough vaccines to inoculate its members?

A: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends who should be offered vaccines first. From there, states develop plans for who will be vaccinated and how people get the vaccines once they become available. Once jurisdictions, federal and commercial entities in those states are allocated their supplies, they then decide where the doses go, sending vaccine supplies to health departments, hospitals and pharmacies.

Kaiser Permanente officials on Thursday said the health network was receiving a small fraction of California's vaccine supply in the early months of the vaccination effort. Health care providers cannot go directly to manufacturers to buy more vaccine doses, Kaiser said. The health network was later able to get a larger supply.

"After working actively with the state and others to increase vaccine supply proportionate to our membership, at the end of February the state has increased Kaiser Permanente's weekly vaccine allocation to better match the number of members we serve," Kaiser officials said in a statement. "Since that time, we have delivered more than 2 million vaccine doses in California, and have the capacity to do even more, as the supply becomes available."

Q: Are we able to choose which vaccine we get? I would prefer the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, as it requires only one dose.

A: Mostly, no, because vaccine supplies are scarce and demand is high. Hundreds of thousands of Sacramento County residents are eligible for vaccinations. Health network Kaiser Permanente, for example, offers vaccines according to state criteria and available supply. Many chain pharmacies rely on allocations from the state or federal government and get the vaccine type that they receive.

CVS Pharmacy locations offer Moderna, Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson vaccines depending on the pharmacy location, but not more than one type at a time. Find which CVS site has which vaccine at before scheduling an appointment. No internet access? Call CVS at 800-746-7287 for an appointment.

Sutter Health does give members the opportunity to pick from the three FDA-approved vaccines when they set their appointments including the single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot or the two-dose Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, administered several weeks apart. Sutter cautions, however, that paring down your vaccine choices will drastically shrink the number of available appointments.

For 16- and 17-year-olds, the Pfizer shot is the only choice because it's the only one approved for the teen group.

Q: As far as vaccine availability, why are we being punished for living in Sacramento County? My husband is 64 1/2 years old and will probably not be able to get a vaccine for a long time once it opens up to 50-plus. He is at much greater risk with high blood pressure and asthma than many others, but because we live in this county and he wanted to abide by the health vaccination rules, he is being put at much greater risk.

A: Sacramento County public health officials are urging that frustrated residents continue to be patient.

"We understand the frustration," Sacramento County Department of Public Health spokeswoman Brenda Bongiorno told The Bee via email Thursday.

They've had to be patient, too. Hundreds of thousands of county residents are eligible for the vaccine, with yet more becoming so April 15. But the numbers of vaccines allocated to California and to the county — already flat in recent weeks — dropped unexpectedly this week, county health officials said in a Thursday briefing.

California received 400,000 fewer vaccines than the week prior, the health department's Rachel Allen said. Sacramento County's allocation of 20,200 vaccines this week is down from the 33,000 last week, Allen said, with the biggest drop in the amount of Johnson & Johnson doses.

"It's going to be challenging in a week where we know eligibility is going to be 16 and over," Allen said. "We did hope to have an increase in allocation. We're just asking for patience and we should be able to get doses out as quickly as we can and hopefully (receive) a bigger bump next week," she said.

Help is available. Sacramento County's COVID-19 vaccination website posts regularly updated information and web links to drive-thru and walk-up vaccination locations, including Cal Expo, McClellan Park and at Natomas High School. Natomas registrants can sign up online or call 916-561-5253 from 8 to 11 a.m. Mondays.

Sacramento Regional Transit is offering free rides to COVID-19 vaccination appointments.

The county website also links to pharmacies dispensing vaccines, including Costco, CVS, RiteAid, Safeway, Sam's Club, Walgreens and Walmart, as well as, a site that helps locate clinics, pharmacies and sites that offer doses.

And, also keep an eye out for Save Mart locations now offering COVID-19 vaccinations.

Q: Can I get a vaccine in Riverside County if I am a San Diego resident?

A: No, unless you work in Riverside County. Like a number of California counties, including Sacramento, Riverside extends eligibility only to those who live, work or study in the county offering the vaccinations. However, part-time Riverside County residents— hello, Snowbirds — are also eligible. It's a question Andrea Franco at the Riverside University Health System gets asked a lot by her San Diego County neighbors.

"It's been a popular question," Franco said Wednesday.

Can't see the form below? Click here to submit your vaccine questions.


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