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California’s COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Plan Kicks Into Gear

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A medical professional prepares a vaccine.

The first COVID-19 vaccines were administered this week in the Bay Area. But getting the vaccines out to the people that need them is no small task.

Governor Newsom said that he expects the state will get around 2 million doses by the end of the year. While that may sound like a lot, it’s just the beginning in a state with close to 40 million people. According to Newsom:

“It’s starting to take shape. A bit of a flywheel, it starts modestly, slowly, and we’ll start to see these things build up,”

Here’s how the vaccine distribution works: The state’s first shipments of the vaccine are going to regions with the highest positive case rates. From there, medical facilities that can store the vaccines and serve high risk communities get the first batches.

In San Francisco, all acute care hospitals, like San Francisco General, will get some doses.  In Alameda, hospitals that are part of the Alameda County Health Care Service, like Highland Hospital and John George Psychiatric Hospital, expect to start vaccinating frontline staff on Friday. Berkeley, which operates its own health care jurisdiction, is directing all of its first doses to Alta Bates.  

Multi-county hospital systems like Kaiser, Dignity Health and Sutter will get vaccines directly from the state and have their own plan about how to distribute them between their locations. The federal government will give out vaccines to residential care facilities and VA hospitals.

The general population won’t get access to the vaccine until the supply is no longer limited, which health officials expect will be in the summer or fall.


Annelise was born and raised in the East Bay and has a background in oral history and urban studies. For the last four and half years, she's worked as a criminal defense investigator at a public defenders office in the Bronx, New York and at an appellate defenders office in the Bay Area. As an investigator, she frequently interviews people involved in different parts of the criminal punishment system. Through her work, she has become passionate about the power of personal narratives and compelling stories to increase cross-cultural understanding and initate change.