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SLO County, state sign agreement on Blue Shield vaccine distribution

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San Luis Obispo County inked a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the state on March 30 that sets the ground rules for COVID-19 vaccine distribution in the region—something many anxious counties are now doing as Blue Shield assumes control of the statewide vaccination network.

A DOSE OF NEGOTIATION SLO County joined other California counties on March 31 in signing an agreement that will govern how Blue Shield manages COVID-19 vaccine distribution. - PHOTO COURTESY OF SLO COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH DEPARTMENT
  • Photo Courtesy Of SLO County Public Health Department
  • A DOSE OF NEGOTIATION SLO County joined other California counties on March 31 in signing an agreement that will govern how Blue Shield manages COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

Local officials say the agreement helps preserve SLO County's control over how it manages allocated doses and also requires Blue Shield to consult with them on future vaccine-related decisions.

"We believe the MOU will allow the county and its partners to continue to safely and efficiently vaccinate as many residents as possible and will allow for greater communication between the state, county, and Blue Shield," SLO County Counsel Rita Neal told New Times by email.

When the state announced plans in January to outsource vaccine distribution responsibilities to Blue Shield, many counties expressed concerns about how the change could disrupt local vaccination efforts already underway.

The MOU aims to resolve those concerns, Neal said. It ensures that SLO County can continue calling the shots on how vaccines are distributed locally, including deciding how many doses are given to third-party health care providers. The county in turn agreed to follow the state's criteria for vaccine eligibility and equity, including "targeting underserved communities that have suffered a disproportionate burden of the COVID-19 pandemic."

The agreement also relieves pressure on the county to switch over to the state's much-maligned MyTurn online sign-up portal for vaccine appointments. Instead, the MOU allows the SLO County to continue using its local vaccine registry system and transition to MyTurn "if and when it's determined that such a transition will not interfere with the county's own web-based sign-up system and will not hamper our vaccination efforts," according to Neal.

Despite the wins for the county, the MOU still asserts that the state and Blue Shield reserve the ultimate right to control vaccine allocation amounts to the county, and that "changing circumstances in the pandemic may require reallocation of vaccine to providers and to communities that are suffering from significant outbreaks of COVID-19."

As of March 26, SLO County Public Health had received a total of 95,775 vaccine doses from the state and administered 90,755 shots. Of those totals, 56,584 residents have received at least their first dose, while 34,171 have received both doses. Those numbers do not include doses sent to and administered by other local vaccine providers, like pharmacies.

On March 31, SLO County announced it had opened its vaccine lottery registry to all residents over age 30. Visit recoverslo.org for registration details. Δ

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