Mayor London Breed and Director of Public Health Dr. Grant Colfax speak at the Oceanview covid-19 testing site on September 18, 2020. Photo by Juan Carlos Lara.

Depending on vaccine supplies, San Francisco will open three mass vaccination sites, and the first at City College  could be ready as early as the end of next week announced Mayor London Breed, Director of Public Health Dr. Grant Colfax, and President of the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals of Northern California Carrie Plietz on Friday. 

The sites will be opened in partnership with private providers, “which are receiving the majority of the vaccine doses from the state,” the city said. It appears that the city will provide the sites and the private providers most of the vaccines. 

Eventually, the city will also have smaller pop-up vaccine sites to immunize underserved neighborhoods like the Mission and the Bayview. 

The providers working with the city on the mass vaccination sites include Kaiser Permanente, UCSF Health, Dignity Health, and Sutter Health/California Pacific Medical Center. 

These providers care for the vast majority of the city’s residents and as such are receiving many more doses than the Department of Public Health (DPH). 

DPH will also use the sites but, so far, it has received fewer doses, it said. 

The new sites aim to administer as many as 10,000 vaccines a day if — and that’s a big if — the city’s providers have enough doses, said Breed.

The press conference had the sense of being a response to widespread anxiety about the city’s plans, and to a surge resulting in its highest covid case rate yet, with a total of 27,878 cases, 244 hospitalizations and 241 deaths, according to the San Francisco data dashboard on Friday. 

Moreover, the vaccine rollout appears to be going better elsewhere, a fact San Francisco residents read in news accounts and in texts from senior relatives in places like Georgia and Southern California that read, “I just got vaccinated.” 

San Francisco suddenly seems behind the curve — a circumstance that Breed blamed on the federal and state governments. 

“The fact is, as you know, we’re not making the vaccines ourselves. We have no control of what we get and when we get it,” Breed said. “Our facilities will be ready to handle as much vaccine as we receive from the state and federal government.” 

“All [vaccines] have been administered or assigned. We are not sitting on any vaccines. They are all moving out the door,” Breed said, who pleaded for citizens’ patience multiple times.

“I know there have been a lot of questions … I know that there’s been a lot of information, misinformation that has been out there in the public,” she said. “I have a lot of the same questions, including how we get more vaccines … Look, this pandemic, it’s not easy, but I want to be clear with the people of San Francisco, we have a plan. We are moving these vaccines forward. We can do this together.”

If a tranche of vaccines arrives to providers, she said, the city is ready to open mass sites, first at City College of San Francisco in the Ocean View-Merced Heights-Ingleside neighborhood, and then at the San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market in the Bayview, and the Moscone Center in SoMa. 

These “will allow us to quickly vaccinate people once we have the supply to do so,” Breed said.

Friday’s announcement arose amid mounting criticism and concern from San Franciscans who are trying to understand how and when they can receive vaccines. Breed defended the city’s progress and repeatedly noted that any hiccups are on the state and federal end, which the city has no control over.

“The locations are not the problem. It’s the supply,” Breed said.  

So far, the Department of Public Health has administered 13,566 vaccines out of the 33,975 doses it received, according to the Covid Command Center, or nearly 40 percent of its resources. All remaining doses are “second doses for scheduled appointments, allocated to institutions that are scaling up operations, redistributed to other facilities ready to use” or had been “just delivered.”  

Those “institutions” or “facilities” include clinics, the city’s two hospitals and institutions outside of those that the city supplies such as the Chinese Hospital. It’s these individual clinics that are then in control of how many patients are vaccinated.

On Thursday, Mission Local found that several clinics that Dr. Colfax said on Tuesday might be expected to vaccinate residents over 65-years-old this week had not done so. On Friday, the Health Department said several logistical factors on the individual clinic level could cause delay, such as whether these clinics have enough freezer space and how many patients they think they can vaccinate a day. 

The confusion prompted District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney to call for a hearing on vaccine distribution for next Wednesday at 11:30 a.m., he tweeted Friday: “We need information, action, access and quick distribution.” 

Seemingly to dispel some confusion, Breed also announced on Friday a new notification system reserved for city residents that will contact each person when they are allowed to receive a vaccine. It launches officially on Jan. 19. Covid Command Center said a new vaccine dashboard will be added to the city’s covid data dashboard, too.

Up until now, Breed said, San Francisco has been inoculating populations in the state’s Phase 1A category, or healthcare and long-term residents.“We have between 80 to 90,000 frontline health care workers in the city,” the mayor said.

She did not say whether all had been vaccinated, but the city said earlier this week that, like the state, San Francisco would next be immunizing California residents over the age of 65 .

The Health Department has faced “inconsistent distribution” which caused “operational challenges,” according to the Command Center. 

What’s clear is that the city does not know how many doses it will receive week to week. Some weeks it appears to be 10 to 12,000, and other weeks, 3,500.

“As an example” of the confusion, Colfax said, “this week we were recently told by the state that next we would get 1,700 vaccines, whereas a couple weeks ago we got 11,000 vaccines.” 

The private providers get their doses separately and are also reliant on what the state sends. 

Mission Local confirmed on Thursday that both Kaiser members and non-members could schedule vaccines if they were older than 65, but due to limited supplies not everyone could snag an appointment. Scheduling one with Kaiser took upward of one-and-a-half hours. This morning, the Kaiser line said there were no more available appointments; call tomorrow. 

“If we don’t have vaccines to give, we don’t have vaccines to give,” Pleitz said. 

Meanwhile, the state also confronts a tumultuous rollout. When it comes to how much of the population has been vaccinated, percentage-wise, California ranks as one of the worst states in the country. 

Last week, 584,366 doses were given to Californians, and in an effort to boost numbers Gov. Gavin Newsom directed 1 million more to be given within 10 days. However, the state falls far short, administering only 975,293 doses according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention Centers. This is less than 30 percent of the total doses distributed to California. 

Even as more people get vaccinated, medical experts said it can take up to two weeks after the second dose to be fully protected, and masks and general covid health guidelines should still be practiced. 

read about how local testing efforts tackled vaccine engagement:

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...

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5 Comments

  1. “EVENTUALLY, the city will also have smaller pop-up vaccine sites to immunize underserved neighborhoods like the Mission and the Bayview.” Right first the overserved neighborhoods where it’s not needed and then sometime in the far distant future the underserved neighborhoods where it’s desperately needed. As always Breed and Colfax stay on racist message, guaranteed.

    1. Thank you for saying this — the white and wealthy win again.

      This pandemic continues to show racist and elitist policy in real time without any notion of change. My goodness, you’d think they would start vaccinating at the new 24/Mission site, all things considered.

  2. ‘“We have between 80 to 90,000 frontline health care workers in the city,” the mayor said.’
    Uh, that means that 10% of the SF population are “frontline health care workers”?
    Is that even plausible?

  3. SF Health Network members, who are not in the wealthier economic tiers, have been able to sign up for the vaccine earlier than UCSF and Sutter Health patients.
    This seems to be a massive failure on many levels, affecting most SF residents.
    The distribution plan should have been created even before the vaccines were developed. We knew what would be needed. We just didn’t know what the medication would be.
    They did a much better job with polio in school gyms with record-keeping by hand.
    This is a blot on the reputations of many, including the Mayor. (HOW MANY frontline healthcare workers do you think we have?)

  4. Mayor Breed seems uninformed, and as a health care worker, I can concur this is inaccurate. The locations are the problem as well. It’s not just about the amount of doses. There is only ONE vaccine site through Sutter Health (my insurance plan) for the entire city of SF! I could drive 2 hours outside the city and get vaccinated though. Organization with health care insurance plans is horrendous and unacceptable being that SF is one of the most populous city in N. CA region

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