Newsom's 'Vaccinate All 58' Fails at Equitable Distribution of the COVID Vaccine to the Most Vulnerable

AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, Pool

Gavin Newsom is doing his best to cheerlead the vaccine rollout, giving daily tweets on the number of shots administered.

In December of 2020, the Office of the California Governor issued a press release touting the launch of the State’s program “Vaccinate All 58“:

As the first doses of the Pfizer vaccine arrive in California, Governor Gavin Newsom today launched “Vaccinate All 58”, California’s campaign for a safe, fair and equitable vaccine for all 58 counties in the state. The Governor joined Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center, one of the first locations in the state to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, as first doses were administered. Across California, vaccines will be administered in phases by prioritizing groups according to risk and level of exposure. Initial doses will go to California’s essential health care workers and those among our most vulnerable in long-term care settings.

“Hope is here. As our first doses of vaccine arrive, the promise of ending the pandemic is on the horizon. By taking collective, inclusive action across all 58 counties to get people vaccinated, we can get through to a healthier future for all,” said Governor Newsom.

Three months later, in his State of the State address, Newsom boasted:

“We were the first to launch mass-vaccination sites in partnership with FEMA, now a model for other states. Today, we have the most robust vaccination program in America. California now ranks sixth in the world for vaccine distribution, ahead of countries like Israel, Russia, Germany and France.

“We’ve built a vaccine system where our only constraint now is manufactured supply. Every Californian will have convenient access to shots — including those who are home-bound and those who don’t have transportation or the internet.”

And in a March 12 interview with KNX Radio,

Newsom addressed vaccine equity, saying the Black and Latino communities have been disproportionately affected. He says no other state has come close in advancing a commitment to equity than California with 40 percent of all the doses that are required to go to communities with the highest disease burden.

“This state is administering every single dose it receives every single week,” he said.

However, we are seeing this Governor pay lip service and grandstand about a robust vaccine distribution system, when the reality tells a different story. The “Vaccinate All 58” program has not lived up to its high goals, while the most vulnerable continue to encounter roadblocks to getting the vaccine.

From the Guardian:

California has failed to equitably distribute vaccines to residents in its poorest and most vulnerable regions, according to a new report from federal researchers that found the nation’s most populous state has one of most unequal vaccine programs.

The report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that California ranked among the worst five states for unequal vaccine distribution. Researchers from the CDC analyzed vaccines administered from 14 December to 1 March, and compared where doses were distributed against county-level demographic data.

In the first two and a half months of its vaccine program, California has doled out a smaller proportion of its vaccines to counties with the most vulnerable residents than it has to counties with the least vulnerable. The CDC data lines up with the state’s own statistics, which found lower levels of vaccination in vulnerable neighborhoods, where a larger proportion of people are low-income, have less access to healthcare and have higher rates of Covid-19 risk factors such as asthma and heart disease.

Oddly experimental. Disorganized. Not the words you want to hear combined with distribution of a necessary vaccine to combat a supposedly deadly virus.

Yet, here we are.

Coupled with human error and glitches in the MyTurn distribution system, the delays in getting shots in arms continue to increase. Much like the shifting tiers on phases for reopening, and the guidance (or lack thereof) set with the COVID lockdowns, Newsom continues to shift the goal posts and change requirements seemingly on a whim.

Just this week, millions more Californians were added to the priority list, “inundating a system already straining under the weight of limited supply, pervasive tech glitches, political infighting and general confusion,” as CalMatters blogger Emily Hoeven described it.

Supposedly the elderly and those with disabilities and severe health conditions were to be near the head of the line, but then Newsom set aside 10% of the vaccine supply for education workers to persuade them to reopen schools and another 40% for low-income communities where COVID-19 has hit the hardest. Last week, the state suddenly added transit workers, commercial airline employees, the homeless and those held in federal immigration centers.

The Times of San Diego calls it for what it is:

Instead of the smoothly functioning vaccination system that Newsom touted in his State of the State address, it’s a confusing jumble that encourages line-cutting gamesmanship and breeds cynicism.

Newsom continues to do what he does best: traffic in political theater and gaslight. The Recall election is a certain reality, so he wants to rewrite the narrative of his governorship by becoming the savior of the vaccine rollout, when he has accomplished little towards its stated goals.

The power to execute and manage this massive undertaking is what is needed, rather than pom-poms and forced symbolism.