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Here’s why Santa Clara County is getting a vaccine windfall this week – San Francisco Chronicle

here’s-why-santa-clara-county-is-getting-a-vaccine-windfall-this-week-–-san-francisco-chronicle

Santa Clara County announced a vaccine windfall Tuesday, more than a quarter million doses directly from the federal government that allowed the county to open coronavirus vaccinations to people as young as 16, two days ahead of much of the state.

“We’re very excited. Finally we’re going to see a tremendous increase in vaccine and the availability of appointments,” Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, the county’s vaccine officer, told a news conference. He said that demand has long outstripped vaccine availability — and that that is changing.

“I think Santa Clara County hasn’t really gotten the fair amount (of doses) that we have should have had,” he said. “So I think this is appropriate that we’re getting this vaccine.”

The federal allotment is based on the county’s large number of federally qualified health centers, which receive priority from the federal government.

The county has already received nearly 300,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine this week through the program. Another 40,000 doses of Moderna are expected to follow, said Otto Lee, a county supervisor, at the news conference. In all, that’s nearly five times what the county had been receiving, he said.

“We’ve been waiting for this day for a long, long time,” Lee said, adding that the move to vaccinate everyone at least 16 years old who lives or works in the county was a “game changer.”

Santa Clara County and San Francisco each lowered vaccination eligibility Tuesday to include everyone 16 and older. They joined more than half the state’s counties that have done so, including Alameda and Contra Costa, ahead of the statewide expansion Thursday.

Santa Clara County officials said tens of thousands of additional vaccination appointments are opening up this week and next. The officials urged people to make appointments through the county’s website, at SCCFreeVax.org. People without a computer can call 211 within the county to schedule their shots.

Santa Clara County was able to expand its federal vaccination pipeline with the help of four representatives to Congress — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco and Democratic Reps. Zoe Lofgren of San Jose, Anna Eshoo of Palo Alto and Ro Khanna of Fremont — county Supervisor Cindy Chavez told The Chronicle after she had thanked them during the press conference.

The federal government gives vaccine priority to federally qualified health centers, but counties must apply to join that pipeline. Chavez said in an interview that the politicians’ help was needed because Santa Clara County has 12 such clinics, second only to Los Angeles in the state, and that asking for tens of thousands of doses might have raised questions about whether the county could handle such an influx.

Chavez said the county has been preparing its vaccine infrastructure since the fall, and can vaccinate 30,000 people a day — but has had only “a drizzle” of doses.

Now, with the additional doses, the county will be able to vaccinate people more quickly in low-income communities in East San Jose and Gilroy, she said.

News of the increase came on a day when most counties, including Santa Clara, announced that they were pausing adminstration of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine because of safety questions raised after six recipients in the U.S. developed blood clots after their shots.

Nanette Asimov is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @NanetteAsimov

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