Editor's note: SLO County is not currently providing unscheduled vaccinations at its clinics at the end of the day despite the increased number of missed appointments.
More and more people are skipping their scheduled COVID-19 vaccine appointments, according to the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department, as officials plead with residents to call ahead if they need to cancel so that others can take their spot.
FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
CALL AHEAD A growing number of people are missing their COVID-19 vaccine appointments. SLO County is encouraging residents to call ahead if they need to cancel.
County officials say that the number of “no-shows” at their three vaccine clinics has grown to as high as 20 percent of all appointments over the past few weeks, equaling thousands of doses.
While no doses are being “wasted,” according to the county, it creates unpredictability and inefficiency in administering the vaccine.
“We want to maximize our utilization of doses,” SLO County Public Health Officer Penny Borenstein said at a March 17 press briefing, “and when we see the kind of no-show rates we’re having … those are doses that are sitting in the refrigerator when they could’ve gone into other peoples’ arms.”
Borenstein attributed the rise in no-shows to the growing number of pharmacies and health providers that are offering the vaccine
. Residents registered in the county’s new vaccine lottery system are finding appointments elsewhere while they wait to be selected. Then when they are selected, they no longer need that appointment slot.
Residents who need to cancel their vaccine appointments at the county can do so by calling (805) 543-2444 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. That opens up an appointment slot for someone else in the system.
Despite the no-shows, SLO County claims that it’s managed to not waste vaccine supply. At the end of each day, Borenstein said that her clinics are tracking down eligible community members to vaccinate.
“We initially did so with some high-risk county employees. We then used folks available on the radio—law enforcement, fire personnel. We’ve had food sector personnel,” Borenstein said.
Public Health spokesperson Michelle Shoresman added that the clinics also have some flexibility in how they line up vaccine doses each day so they can be adjusted based on demand.
“We draw up vaccine throughout the day based on the number of appointments we have, and adjust vial-by-vial as we near the end of each day,” Shoresman said.
The county is also overbooking some appointments to make up for “a fairly predictable 10 percent no-show rate.”
Some locals who are still ineligible for a vaccine have clamored for the county to start a lottery system for those unused doses. It’s an idea that Borenstein said presents a logistical challenge but that her office will consider.
“Managing a separate system for end-of-day doses, where we really need for people to be available by text within 15 minutes, has proven to be a real challenge for staff on the ground,” Borenstein said. “We’ll be looking at that as more and more these sectors get themselves vaccinated through appointment.” ∆