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SLO County hopes private health care can ramp up COVID-19 vaccination campaign

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Since COVID-19 vaccines arrived in December, the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department has mobilized to open three local vaccine clinics, while developing a new website and online appointment system to get residents signed up for vaccinations.

HEAVY LIFT SLO County Public Health has administered the majority of local COVID-19 vaccinations thus far. - FILE PHOTO COURTESY OF SLO COUNTY
  • File Photo Courtesy Of SLO County
  • HEAVY LIFT SLO County Public Health has administered the majority of local COVID-19 vaccinations thus far.

At press time, SLO County had received 22,660 total doses of vaccine from the state and administered 10,539 first doses and 2,300 second doses. Public health is currently vaccinating between 4,000 to 5,000 residents age 75 and older each week at its clinics.

But as the vaccine rollout at the county gains momentum, some officials have asked what role local hospitals and private health care offices are playing in the campaign.

Statewide, hospitals are receiving their own vaccine doses—at varying levels—from both local public health departments and the state Department of Public Health.

The landscape is ever-changing; numbers are hard to pin down; and the communication between the providers, the counties, and the state isn't perfect, according 2nd District SLO County Supervisor Bruce Gibson.

"The problem is that we just don't know what kind of vaccine they have and how much they've administered," Gibson told New Times.

Local health officials have worked in recent days to get up-to-date information from local providers—to some success.

"We have reached out to all providers as to how many doses they have actually administered and have gratefully received up-to-date responses from most," SLO County Public Health Spokesperson Michelle Shoresman said. "From the hospitals and pharmacies to whom we allocated doses, we believe they are being administered at a high rate."

According to Sara San Juan, a spokesperson for Dignity Health Central Coast, the amount of vaccinations underway depends on the hospital. At Marian Regional Medical Center in Santa Maria, more than 4,000 local residents older than 75 have received a vaccination. But at French Hospital in SLO, the number is smaller.

"Marian has received larger allotments than French, so are able to vaccinate larger amounts of the public," San Juan said. "The situation is very fluid, and when we receive shipments, it is our intention to vaccinate our community efficiently and expeditiously."

Tenet Health Central Coast, which owns Sierra Vista hospital in SLO and Twin Cities hospital in Templeton, is not offering vaccinations to the general public yet, according to a monthly public update from CEO Mark Lisa.

In a statement to New Times, Tenet Health Central Coast said it "continues to work with the county of San Luis Obispo Public Health Department to leverage our expertise and resources with the goal of helping get vaccinations to the public as soon as they become available."

County officials said they expect the private providers to play an increased and significant role in the vaccination campaign in the near future.

"We do not have a start date, but hope that local private health care providers can start vaccinating more people in SLO County soon," Shoresman said. Δ

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