A site worker greets Stephen Clark, 76, for his vaccination appointment. Clark drove down from Richmond for his appointment. Photo by Juan Carlos Lara on Jan. 22, 2021.

San Francisco, its Department of Public Health, and multiple private healthcare providers launched the city’s first mass Covid-19 vaccination site at City College on Friday at 8 a.m. in an effort to ramp up immunizations among residents, regardless of health coverage. 

At present, the drive-through site was only open to those who had been contacted by their healthcare provider. Today’s run of perhaps several hundred people served as something of a dry run for the thousands per day who’ll need to be inoculated to meet the city’s goal of vaccinating all its residents by June 30. Of those interviewed today, all had been invited by UCSF. 

Those who arrived drove in via a backstreet and eventually ended up at a large open parking lot along Friday Kahlo Way. They were greeted by workers who approached them for intake and a questionnaire, before being directed to one of several vaccination lanes. In total, there are 23 lanes, but at most, Mission Local saw seven lanes in use on Friday. 

At 11:30 a.m., about four lanes were open and operations seemed slow. By 1:30 p.m., seven lanes were open and more than a dozen cars were waiting in line. Because the vaccine can cause side effects, recipients must be monitored for 15 minutes afterward.

Elizabeth Bartels and her husband arrived with their Norfolk Terrier, Mac. Bartels is over 75, with underlying conditions, and experienced Covid-like symptoms in March, she said. 

She received an email about the vaccine from her UCSF MyChart system on Thursday night at 7 p.m. and “easily” scheduled an appointment for Friday. 

Once Bartels is safely vaccinated, she said, “I would go out and do my own shopping instead of ordering it online, just to get out. I might consider a bit of travel, maybe.” The couple plans on renting a van for a four-day camping trip. 

Elizabeth Bartels shows off her vaccination card while waiting 15 minutes to see if she’d experience any vaccine side effects. She and her husband felt none and left soon after. Photo by Juan Carlos Lara on Jan. 22, 2021.

Another woman, Amy, also discovered she qualified on Thursday and snagged a Friday slot. After both doses, she said, she’ll continue masking up and attempt a trip to Santa Fe. She’s most excited to see her three children and eight grandchildren. 

“I feel very privileged and thankful that those scientists got the vaccine for us and that I got to get it,” she said. 

Most people getting vaccinated at the site will receive a notice from their healthcare providers, such as Dignity Health and Kaiser Permanente. Private providers get the majority of vaccines from the state, according to the Department of Public Health. 

The City College site opened amid increasing frustrations locally and nationwide about the vaccine rollout. Particularly for San Francisco, Mayor London Breed and Director of Public Health Dr. Grant Colfax have said erratic vaccine shipments made it difficult to navigate vaccination plans on a local level. 

“Large vaccination sites like this one will be critical for getting people vaccinated quickly and safely,” Breed said in a statement. 

The mass site will remain open until 4 p.m. today, and then resume vaccinations at 8 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 24., but it’s unclear whether the 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. schedule will resume on Monday. It all depends on how much stock the city receives, according to the Department of Public Health. 

Just Thursday, the Department of Public Health narrowly avoided cancelling scheduled vaccine appointments, when an order to halt use of approximately 8,400 Moderna vaccines was reversed a day before

At present, only healthcare workers or residents 65 or older can get vaccinated; in San Francisco, about 210,000 residents are eligible under those two categories. Since two injections are required, this would necessitate 420,000 doses just to inoculate the city’s first-tier residents. 

As of Jan. 20, however, the Department of Public Health and private providers “have received only a quarter of those [420,000] doses,” according to a statement from the mayor’s office. 

The City College site is the first of three sites planned by city health officials, who hope  to vaccinate as many as 10,000 San Franciscans a day. The remaining two are slated for Moscone Center and the San Francisco Market in the Bayview, if supply allows. 

Stephen Clark, 76, said he’s a UCSF member and signed up through the Contra Costa County Health Department, but received an appointment link for the City College site. Despite his good luck, he said others are embroiled in a tricky process. 

“I searched forever to find the right number to call; it was just not clear,” Clark said. “I’m sure there are a lot of people my age who are a bit confused and don’t have a clue what to do.”  

Residents who want to know when it’s their turn to get a shot can register for a vaccine notification system that launched on Tuesday. The other two sites are expected to open in a few weeks, Breed and Colfax said earlier this week. 

But “to fully deliver this plan,” Breed said, “we need more vaccine.”

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The first of three envisioned mass Covid-19 vaccination sites in San Francisco opened on Jan. 22, 2021 at City College main campus. Cars lined up for their doses. Photo by Juan Carlos Lara on Jan. 22, 2021.

Annika Hom

Annika Hom is our inequality reporter through our partnership with Report for America. Annika was born and raised in the Bay Area. She previously interned at SF Weekly and the Boston Globe where she focused...

Juan Carlos Lara

Juan Carlos Lara covers business and development in the Mission. Juan Carlos, a San Francisco State alum, is as much a photographer as he is a writer and previously worked as the campus news editor at...

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5 Comments

  1. I registered on the site to notify me when I eligible for the vaccine. I received the email that I was now eligible to get the vaccine and that I should contact my health care provider to schedule my appointment. My doctor is not giving the vaccine. How do I make an appointments at one of the drive through sites?
    In the newspaper it said that I must have an appointment but there was no phone number or web site given to make my appointment. Can anyone help me with that info? Thanks in advance!

  2. Campers,

    Got my first Moderna at the VA’s Ft. Miley this morning.

    Very very efficient.

    I’m in the over 75 group so have someone physically walking each vet through.

    Oldest guy as we yapped was 94.

    In and out with appointment (they texted me) …

    In and out including 15 minute ‘recovery’ sit-down in 35 minutes.

    Military is efficient.

    Go Posey!

    h.

  3. Adrienne, it may be that you have to wait to get an email from the healthcare system you belong to: Kaiser, Dignity Health, Sutter, UCSF. At this point even though people over 65 are eligible, UCSF, at least, is not vaccinating people under 75.

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