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San Diego Health Care Professionals Worry About Vaccine Supply

Medical professionals administer COVID-19 vaccines outside of Father Joe's Village on February 11th, 2021.
Matthew Bowler
Medical professionals administer COVID-19 vaccines outside of Father Joe's Village on February 11th, 2021.

Over the next few weeks, hundreds of thousands more people in San Diego County will become eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. That’s good news, but there’s a big caveat — will the supply be there to vaccinate everyone?

It’s a question without an easy answer, and it’s not new, said Scripps Chief Medical Officer for Acute Care, Dr. Ghazala Sharieff.

San Diego Health Care Professionals Worry About Vaccine Supply
Listen to this story by John Carroll.

“We had the same issue when the tiers were open up to age 65 and up. We had, just at Scripps alone, over 200,000 patients that qualified age 65 and up and initially we only had 10,000 vaccines,” she said.

VIDEO: San Diego Health Care Professionals Worry About Vaccine Supply

That same situation could very well happen again in the coming weeks, and it could very well be worse.

By the middle of March, hundreds of thousands more people in the county will become eligible to get the vaccine. Gov. Gavin Newsom said as of March 1, teachers, law enforcement, food service and agricultural workers will become eligible. Then on March 15, those aged 16 to 64 with certain preexisting health conditions will be able to get a shot.

Sharieff said the county along with health care systems are doing their best to distribute and administer vaccines. But she said they could do much better, if only they knew how much they were going to get.

“We will find out today what we are getting on Monday or Tuesday … so, can plan as much as we like for next week but if the vaccine doesn’t come in, you know, we just don’t know what else to do,” Sharieff said.

There is promising news when it comes to supply: Pfizer said on Tuesday it will be able to deliver 13 million doses per week across the country within the coming weeks and Moderna said it will be able to provide 40 million doses per month by April.

RELATED: UC San Diego Health Opens Vaccine Super Site On Campus For Patients, Faculty

But Sharieff said once people with underlying conditions become eligible next month, the floodgates are going to open, and doctors will be put in the difficult position of deciding whose underlying conditions will make them eligible, and whose won’t.

Still, on KPBS Midday Edition Thursday, Dr. Christian Ramers, Assistant Medical Director of Family Health Centers, said there is some hopeful news, especially when it comes to making sure vaccines are given in an equitable manner.

“There’s a federal program that is going to ship vaccines directly to Community Health Centers. We haven’t seen a dose arrive yet, but we’re encouraged by the fact those will be coming soon,” Ramers said.

Plus, it appears the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will get FDA approval within the next few days. Good news, not-so-good news — just part of what makes this era of COVID-19 so tumultuous.