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What's Behind the Delays in Blue Shield Vaccine Rollout?

Limited communication, technical challenges and lack of transparency have resulted in delays for at least three counties, according to representatives.

This story was written by Emily Hoeven of CalMatters, where it originally appeared

This week, 10 counties in the inland portions of Central and Southern California were slated to transition to the new vaccine distribution system helmed by Blue Shield — but limited communication, technical challenges and lack of transparency have resulted in delays for at least three counties.

Meanwhile, the state is overhauling its equity program after young, healthy and wealthy residents in Los Angeles and San Francisco obtained vaccine access codes intended for vulnerable Californians. It’s just the latest setback for the Golden State, which enlisted Blue Shield to speed up and streamline a slow and chaotic rollout.

But although San Joaquin County was among those set to finish onboarding to the Blue Shield system by Monday, “nothing’s really transitioned at this point in our county,” Greg Diederich, the director of the San Joaquin County Health Care Services Agency, said this week. Diederich added that the county “didn’t get a lot of direct dialogue” with Blue Shield until last week, when the insurance giant passed along model contracts for vaccine providers.

Said Diederich: “Nobody to my knowledge has really signed that contract.”

Fresno County is also still in the process of “discussing that transition plan,” with a new projected launch date of March 1, according to Joe Prado, the county’s health division manager.

Stanislaus County said Monday that it still hadn’t received any guidance from Blue Shield.

The state Department of Public Health declined to specify which counties, if any, had successfully transitioned to the new system, saying more information would be provided later this week. Blue Shield referred all questions back to the Department of Public Health.

MyTurn, the state’s one-stop shop for vaccine registration and appointments, appears to be a principal source of glitches and delays. Although the state told counties they would likely be able to import registrations from county websites into MyTurn, it turns out they can’t — forcing some residents to manually re-register with the state, Diederich said.

“The counties … have the local partners, the local considerations, we’re ready to run," he said. “But unfortunately, you know, the state went with the (third-party administrator) concept. … If the decision was made today, it’s definitely the wrong decision.”

CalMatters is a nonpartisan, nonprofit journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters.