Despite the city pledging on Tuesday to begin vaccinating residents 65 and older this week, the four sites where the director of public health said vaccinations would take place were devoid of seniors receiving shots on Thursday.
Moreover, clinicians at the sites said the city’s Department of Public Health (DPH) has left them in the dark about when and how vaccinations for seniors will begin.
A DPH spokesperson issued a statement today to Mission Local saying that the city indeed began vaccinating those 65 or older on Wednesday at two community clinics, but did not specify which ones. This could not be independently confirmed.
The clinics have the capacity to vaccinate roughly 100 people per day, which is to be expanded to the remainder of the clinics, as well as the city, scales up capacity, according to the spokesperson.
“The vaccine remains in limited quantities, and the state’s guidelines still prioritize healthcare workers,” the statement read. “However, people over 60 make up 15 percent of the city’s infections but more than 85 percent of the deaths from the virus.”
In an effort to prevent more people in high-risk categories from dying of Covid-19, the state bumped residents 65 and older up in the vaccine line, making them eligible to receive the vaccine following healthcare workers and nursing-home residents.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has also set a target to have 1 million Californians vaccinated by the end of the week. San Francisco Supervisor Matt Haney, who has been vocal about the need to expedite the rollout, called that “a bit of a reach.”
That seemed true on Thursday morning as Mission Local ventured out to interview seniors getting shots at the sites Colfax listed in Tuesday’s press conference. Indeed, The San Francisco Chronicle wrote on Wednesday, “San Francisco on Wednesday began vaccinating people 65 and older who are in the county health system that serves people who are uninsured, on Medicaid or on the city health care plan.”
On Tuesday, Colfax mentioned where those vaccinations would take place — at Zuckerberg San Francisco Hospital, Southeast Health Center in Bayview-Hunters Point, Maxine Hall Health Center in the Fillmore and the Covid Command Center clinic downtown. And, given the number of sites, and the announcement, one expected more than 200 shots a day the city says it is now administering at two clinics somewhere in the city.
Alas, on Thursday, those clinics were not any of those Colfax named on Tuesday. The parking lot at Zuckerberg was dotted only with staff and patients cycling in and out of the hospital. Southeast had more clinicians than members of the public. Maxine Hall was a serene, sunny, empty site at lunchtime. And the Covid Command Center had only a short line of people outside, waiting to get tested, but not vaccinated.
Seniors getting vaccinations were nowhere onsite at any of these clinics.
At Southeast Health Center, Maxine Hall and the Covid Command Center clinic, clinicians either said they had no information about the vaccines, or directed Mission Local back to DPH.
A nurse standing outside Zuckerberg San Francisco Hospital said that vaccinations for seniors could begin on Saturday, but Mission Local was unable to confirm that information, and the hospital’s spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Larger health systems serving the city were more forthcoming. Sutter Health opened up vaccination appointments to those 75 or older, although its website crashed Thursday afternoon from an overload of visitors.
And Kaiser Permanente members 65 and older can schedule phone appointments to get vaccinated, although the health system notes that it has a limited supply of vaccines, so not everyone who is eligible will be able to make an appointment right now. They expect new shipments of vaccine weekly, according to an email one Kaiser patient received, and they will be administering both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine.
Smaller clinics in the Mission, such as the Mission Neighborhood Health Center, are not yet vaccinating elders. “We just got the vaccinations this week to vaccinate our staff,” executive director Brenda Storey wrote in an email.
The pop-up Mission Castro site at 219 Bartlett St. does not have the infrastructure to conduct vaccinations.
Haney, who met with DPH officials today, said the department is preparing for wider distribution to seniors, especially for those who are in the San Francisco health network — referring to seniors who would be visiting one of the clinics Colfax mentioned on Monday. But in terms of when San Francisco clinics will start vaccinating elders, he doesn’t have answers.
He urged the city to consolidate information about the vaccine, launch mass vaccination sites and allow people to register for vaccines through the county.
“Far too many of our elderly residents are completely in the dark about what they should be doing and how they can access the vaccine,” he said.