Tulare County concerned over transition to Blue Shield

Tulare County HHSA notes their concerns over undefined details with state third-party vaccine administrator Blue Shield

VISALIA – While the COVID-19 vaccines is the fastest produced in the history of man, its rollout has left much to be desired.

Tulare County’s latest concern over vaccinations is working with the state’s third-party administrator for the vaccine: Blue Shield. According to Health and Human Services Agency director, Tim Lutz, Blue Shield hosted a meeting with the county on Feb. 16 in order to outline the process of vaccine supply and rollout. The meeting did not leave the county feeling reassured.

“We are concerned about a number of areas with this expedited rollout,” Lutz said.

Specifically, Lutz mentioned that the county does not know whether they can reallocate vaccine within the county. He said this is something the county does internally to help backfill some of the providers in need of vaccine. One such instance where the county needed to reallocate vaccine supply was when storms in other parts of the country delayed delivery of the Moderna vaccine.

“Overall, the rollout for Blue Shield really has seemed very rushed and haphazard,” Lutz said. “Quite honestly, our fear is the result is going to be the opposite of what the state intends. And that is, we very realistically could face the possibility that some providers who are vaccinating today will not be able to vaccinate initially under Blue Shield.”

On top of that, the MyTurn.ca.gov system that Blue Shield operates with for vaccine distribution and appointments could pillage the county’s regular vaccine supply. Lutz said the state has announced that anyone eligible for the vaccine can make an appointment anywhere within a 50 mile radius regardless of county lines. At last Tuesday’s Tulare County Board of Supervisors meeting, chairwoman Amy Shuklian paused Lutz’s presentation to clarify.

“So, what you’re saying is we’re surrounded by Kings County, Fresno County, Kern County, if we go south into our county, they can register on MyTurn and they could come into Tulare County with our…3,500 doses…Yeah, that’s not okay,” Shuklian said.

Every time the county has held one of the Point of Distribution (POD) clinics and left it up to MyTurn to collect appointments, they have had residents from other counties register. Lutz said they are only able to avoid that when they have scheduled “closed” PODs when they seek to vaccinate educators or ag workers specifically.

County administrative officer Jason Britt, the county department of public health and Lutz have all voiced their concerns through state channels, Lutz said. He added that other counties have shared similar concerns, and they have cut across county size.

“Recognizing that we do have some concerns here, we don’t want to see our efforts that we have worked very hard over the last two months suffer as a result of this transition,” Lutz said.

Two weeks ago Lutz told The Sun-Gazette that the county should expect an additional 6,300 vaccine does with OptumServe distribution centers coming online. But Lutz told the board last Tuesday the state put a hold on those vaccines. Instead, the four OptumServe sites in Dinuba, Earlimart, Porterville and Woodlake will have to come from their existing allocation that fluctuates between 3,000 and 5,000 a week.

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