Santa Clara County will receive about 300,000 additional COVID-19 vaccine doses and plans to open up tens of thousands of additional vaccine appointments this week, health leaders said during a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
"This is close to four to five times the vaccines we have been getting," Supervisor Otto Lee said of the boost in doses. "This is really a game changer," he said.
The increased supply, which comes after weeks of shortages, is coming directly to the county's health system from the federal government under a program operated by the federal Health Resources & Services Administration. As a result of the expanded vaccine supply, the county is opening vaccine eligibility to all residents and workers ages 16 or older effective Tuesday, two days earlier than the April 15 date designated by the state.
The news comes on the heels of a county announcement to halt administration of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration caution has caused severe health reactions in six people, including a rare form of blood clot. Officials said earlier in the day that doses of the J&J vaccine would not impact the county's vaccine distribution effort and could easily be made up from suppliers Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech.
Health officials breathed a collective sigh of relief at Tuesday's press conference after learning about the large allocation from the federal government earlier in the day.
"We're thrilled to provide expanded access to these highly effective vaccines, especially for those most impacted by COVID-19," said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, the county's testing and vaccine officer. Vaccines are the county's No. 1 priority and they will save lives. After many weeks of supply challenges, we will be able to offer vaccination to those at greatest risk and ensure broad coverage for our entire community."
The county received the first shipments of additional vaccines from the U.S. government on Tuesday morning and additional supplies are expected to arrive next week. The significant supply increase will allow the county health system to fully use its administration capabilities at each of its vaccine clinics, county officials said. The county is also working with other vaccine providers so they will have enough supply and is expanding its outreach efforts to reduce barriers to vaccination, they said.
Dr. Jennifer Tong, assistant chief medical officer for the Santa Clara County Valley Medical Center, said they expect heavy traffic on the county's vaccine signup website in the next few days. People should expect delays but should continue to return to the site to book an appointment as more will keep opening up.
Community members are encouraged to schedule vaccination appointments through the county's website sccfreevax.org. Anyone without access to the internet can also call to book a vaccine appointment by calling the county at 211 or 408-970-2000.