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California Tasks Blue Shield With Fixing Beleaguered Vaccine Rollout

DOWNEY, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 26: A woman sits in her car as she waits to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at drive-through public health vaccination site. ((Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
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Blue Shield of California will soon be in charge of ramping up the state's slow distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. The partnership was announced on Wednesday.

The health insurance giant is expected to create a centralized network that will allocate doses directly to public health departments, hospitals and pharmacies, as opposed to the current decentralized approach that has led to inconsistencies in the rollout.

Dr. Shruti Gohil from UC Irvine's School of Medicine says the new approach makes sense, especially because of the complexity of the current vaccines, which both require cold storage and a highly organized rollout plan:

"Once you open a vial, you only have certain amount of time before you can distribute it to a person, so we need a sort of centralized approach. And short of having the resources and wherewithal through public health clinics, which we have not had for decades nationally, employing another agency that's able to do that, would be great."

State officials say they expect the transition to the new system to happen by mid-February. That's also when they're expecting more doses from the federal government.
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Why was Blue Shield selected for this monumental task? The details aren't immediately clear, but the L.A. Times points out that the company is "a prominent player in California political campaigns" and "spent more than $1 million in support of Newsom’s campaign for governor in 2018 and almost $1.3 million on lobbying state government in the most recent legislative session."

Kaiser Permanente says it will also provide help to the state.


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