Here’s why Santa Clara County is getting a windfall in the vaccine this week

Santa Clara County announced a vaccine windfall on Tuesday, more than a quarter of a million doses direct from the federal government that allowed the county to open coronavirus vaccinations to people as young as 16 years old, two days earlier than much of the state.

“We are very excited. Finally we will see a massive increase in the vaccine and the availability of appointments, ”said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, the county vaccine officer, at a news conference. He said demand has long outstripped vaccine availability – and that is changing.

“I don’t think Santa Clara County really got the proper amount (doses) that we should have been getting,” he said. “So I think it is appropriate that we get this vaccine.”

The federal allocation is based on the county’s high number of federally qualified health centers, which are prioritized by the federal government.

The county has already received nearly 300,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine through the program this week. Another 40,000 doses of Moderna are expected to follow, Otto Lee, a provincial supervisor, said at the news conference. In total, that’s nearly five times as much as the province received, he said.

“We’ve been waiting a long, long time for this day,” said Lee, adding that the move to bring everyone at least 16 years old who lives or works in the county was a “game changer”.

Santa Clara County and San Francisco cut eligible vaccinations every Tuesday for anyone 16 and older. They joined more than half of the state counties that have done so, including Alameda and Contra Costa, ahead of Thursday’s statewide expansion.

Santa Clara County officials said tens of thousands more vaccination appointments are being made this week and the following. The officials urged people to make arrangements through the county website, at People without a computer can call 211 within the province to schedule their recordings.

Santa Clara County was able to expand its federal vaccination pipeline with the help of four representatives from Congress – San Francisco House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Reps. Zoe Lofgren from San Jose, Anna Eshoo from Palo Alto and Ro Khanna from Fremont – County Supervisor Cindy Chavez told The Chronicle after thanking them at the press conference.

The federal government gives vaccine priority to federally qualified health centers, but counties must apply to join that pipeline. Chavez said in an interview that the help of the politicians was needed because Santa Clara County has 12 such clinics, second only to Los Angeles in the state, and that asking for tens of thousands of doses could raise the question of whether the province could handle such clinics. an influx.

Chavez said the province has been preparing its vaccine infrastructure since the fall, and can vaccinate 30,000 people a day – but has only had “a drizzle” of doses.

Now, with the additional doses, the county will be able to vaccinate people more quickly in low-income communities in East San Jose and Gilroy, she said.

The news of the increase came on a day when most counties, including Santa Clara, announced they were discontinuing single-dose administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine due to safety questions raised after six recipients in the U.S. got blood clots following their injections.

Nanette Asimov is a staff writer at San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @NanetteSchuurman