Californians traveling the state to find a COVID-19 vaccine

vaccine travelers.PNG
Posted at 6:53 PM, Apr 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-19 21:53:10-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — With every Californian 16 or older now eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, there are questions about whether the systems set in place can handle the demand.

People have already been traveling outside of the county where they live to find an open vaccine appointment.

"Bakersfield's got shots we're going right by there," said one Southern California resident.

When word got out that the CSU Bakersfield vaccination site had a higher vaccine supply than there were patients, people started traveling from Southern California to Bakersfield to get their spot in line.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Kaiser Permanente, which leads the collaboration vaccination effort at the site, said in part, "Kaiser Permanente is committed to ensuring vaccine equity and access for communities that have been hardest hit by the pandemic. The mass vaccination hub in Bakersfield that is operated by a health care consortium was established to serve that mission, and presently, Kern County residents age 16 and older with appointments are given priority to get the COVID-19 vaccine. When there is available capacity in our vaccine schedule, as well as vaccine supply, we will accept people who wish to be vaccinated on a walk-in basis, including from outside the area. As more people eligible in Kern County sign up for a vaccine, walk-in vaccinations will likely decrease, or eventually end."

A spokesperson for Kern County Public Health said they don't know how many out-of-county individuals have received a vaccine. The spokesperson said the Kern County vaccine allotment is intended for individuals who live or work in Kern County. Every county is given a proportional allotment to serve its individual residents.

People making appointments when and where they can is not a new concept.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is aware that's happening -- saying clinic operators are free to restrict those who can receive a vaccination or open it to the general population.

The state says different clinic operators are making choices that are appropriate for them, and many of the “mass vaccination” sites will take all comers, regardless of county of residence.

A spokesperson for CDPH says, "There are dual goals of vaccinating the population quickly and equitably. Many of the ‘mass vaccination’ sites will take all comers, regardless of county of residence."

So, with people 16 and older now eligible for the vaccine, is it something you could see more of across the state?

San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said he's not particularly worried about out-of-county traffic, saying so far that's only accounted for a small percentage of doses distributed.

"You know counties are all getting allocations. It was probably a greater concern in the early days," Fletcher said.