SAN DIEGO (AP) – San Diego County is opening what it calls a “vaccination superstation” that aims to inject up to 5,000 health care workers daily with a COVID-19 vaccine, officials said Friday.
The effort that begins Monday is one of the most ambitious yet in California to accelerate the pace of vaccinations that Gov. Gavin Newsom said this week was “not good enough.” Only about 1% of the state’s 40 million residents have been vaccinated against the coronavirus at a time when a surge of infections has pushed hospitals to the breaking point.
The drive-thru superstation, staffed by medical crews from the University of California, San Diego, will operate out of a parking lot near the baseball stadium where the Padres play in downtown San Diego. Health care workers will remain in their vehicles while they are given the shot and then be asked to remain on-site for 15 minutes to be monitored in case of any reactions.
“Opening this supersized vaccination site will be an important milestone in the state of California’s COVID recovery,” San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said in a statement.
The 454,000 doses of vaccine that have been administered in California represent just a third of the roughly 1.3 million received so far, according to the state Department of Public Health.
Distribution hiccups and logistical challenges – including hospitals having more vaccine doses available than people available to take them – have slowed the initial vaccine rollout.
Across the country, the pace of immunizations also has gone slower than planned.
Similar to San Diego County, Arizona will use the suburban Phoenix stadium that is home to the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals as a mass vaccination site starting Monday. The goal is for thousands of people to be able to get vaccinated daily at the State Farm Stadium in Glendale in the state with the worst COVID-19 diagnosis rate in the U.S.
San Diego County has four vaccination stations that are giving shots to a few hundred people daily. They will continue to operate along with the superstation.
Fletcher said the plan is to replicate the superstation model across the county.
“The volume of vaccines we will distribute on a daily basis is ambitious, but when you’re dealing with a pandemic, you have to be creative and take bold actions to deliver the results your community needs,” Fletcher said.
Other counties also were ramping up vaccination campaigns as cases continued to climb and military medical crews arrived to fill staff shortages at overtaxed hospitals.
“We are standing on a beach and watching a tsunami approach,” said Carmela Coyle, president and CEO of the California Hospital Association, noting the 23,000 coronavirus patients in hospitals.
The state’s death toll has topped 28,500 and confirmed cases have exceeded 2.5 million since the pandemic began. Hard-hit Los Angeles County reported a daily record of 318 deaths on Friday.
In Northern California, Santa Clara County started offering health care workers the option of going to their own provider to get vaccinated. The county has vaccinated more than 47,000 of its 140,000 health care workers.
The county of 2 million people has received 110,000 first doses and 17,000 second doses since mid-December. Officials are hopeful vaccine distribution will accelerate under the Biden administration.
“The plan is to open many more mass vax sites,” said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, who oversees the efforts for the county.
In central California, Fresno County was signing up local doctors to have them deliver vaccinations directly to the general population when those doses are available.
The county, which plays a heavy role in food and agriculture, is also setting aside 3,000 doses and hopes to start vaccinating those workers at the end of January.
Associated Press writers John Antczak and Brian Melley in Los Angeles; Janie Har and Olga Rodriguez in San Francisco; and Don Thompson in Sacramento contributed to this report.
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