Cars are guided to COVID-19 vaccinations at the Petco Park parking lot super station.
Cars are guided to COVID-19 vaccinations at the Petco Park parking lot super station. Photo by Chris Stone

With limited supplies, adverse reactions and long wait times, the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in San Diego County has been bumpy, but county leaders are optimistic for the future.

As it stands, the county has received 442,475 doses of either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, according to the county’s own vaccine dashboard. Of those, 181,738 have been administered to 152,580 people. A total of 29,158 people have been completely inoculated from the virus in the county, or just 1% of residents over the age of 16. Both vaccines on the market require two doses and the vaccines are 95% effective.

San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, co-chair of the county’s COVID-19 response, urged patience from those waiting to receive vaccines.

“We know and recognize that vaccines represent our way out of this,” he said Thursday. “Vaccines alone will not get us there. We have to continue to follow the public health orders to slow the spread, but we are working aggressively in our county to make as many locations available as possible, to build out the infrastructure to make it easy to get into that system and to continue to do everything we possibly can to get the maximum number of San Diegans vaccinated as quickly as possible.”

The first doses of vaccines arrived in the county in mid-December, with about 28,000 Pfizer vaccines spread out among several civilian healthcare providers and another unspecified amount for Naval Medical Center San Diego and Camp Pendleton. Since then, it has been fairly slow going, mainly because the supplies aren’t available.

There are more than 620,000 people in the county counted in the Tier 1A vaccine distribution cohort. With the 65-and-over group, health officials are looking at another 500,000 for well over 1 million people eligible for vaccines.

By the end of June, the county’s Health and Human Services Administration hopes to have 70% of the county’s population over the age of 16 — or 1,882,554 people — vaccinated.

Fletcher said the county’s goal is giving 18,686 vaccines each day by Feb. 1.

UC San Diego Health, San Diego County, and the Padres opened a “Vaccination Super Station” on Jan. 11 adjacent to Petco Park with the intention to vaccinate 5,000 people a day. On Thursday, the county opened a second Super Station at the Sears building in Chula Vista. A smaller vaccine site will open this weekend in National City, joining eight other small point of distribution sites throughout the county.

However, traffic around Petco Park has been heavy, to say the least. Hundreds of cars were backed up for blocks around the parking lot vaccination site. San Diego Police Department officers have been guiding traffic, but many of those waiting in line have not made appointments to receive an inoculation — creating backup and traffic snarls.

Individuals receiving vaccinations throughout the county must be monitored for adverse reactions for 15 minutes after the shot, creating even more traffic backup.

Long backups stall COVID-19 vaccinations at the Petco Park parking lot super station. Photo by Chris Stone

On Sunday, the state warned providers to stop administering a particular batch of the Moderna vaccine due to an unusually high number of people who experienced allergic reactions to the shot at a San Diego clinic.

“A higher-than-usual number of possible allergic reactions were reported with a specific lot of Moderna vaccine administered at one community vaccination clinic,” state Epidemiologist Dr. Erica S. Pan said in a statement. “Fewer than 10 individuals required medical attention over the span of 24 hours. Out of an extreme abundance of caution and also recognizing the extremely limited supply of vaccine, we are recommending that providers use other available vaccine inventory and pause the administration of vaccines from Moderna Lot 041L20A until the investigation by the CDC, FDA, Moderna, and the state is complete. We will provide an update as we learn more.”

San Diego County health officials confirmed last week that six health care workers inoculated at the vaccination center at Petco Park had suffered allergic reactions.

According to the state, more than 330,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine were included in the affected lot, and they were distributed to 287 locations across California. The 330,000 doses represent roughly 10% of the 3.2 million doses the state had received at the time from Moderna and Pfizer.

While the county awaits more vials of vaccine, only those in the medical field and people over the age of 75 have been able to receive vaccinations so far in the county. The next group of people eligible, those in “Phase 1B, Tier One,” will be those at risk of exposure in education, childcare, emergency services and food and agriculture. A preliminary timeline for that next group has been set for early February, according to the HHSA.

More than 173,000 doses of the vaccine have been shipped to the county in the past 48 hours, Fletcher said.  Fletcher said the number of vaccines administered is likely much higher, but health providers have been slow to update.

Of those who have received vaccines, 64.9% have been women, 44.5% have been white, 15.5% Asian, 15.2% Latinos, 21.4% “other race” and 2.3% Black. By age breakdown, 30-39 year olds have received 21% of vaccines, 40-49 is 18.7%, 50-59 is 16.1%, 20-29 is 14% and those over 60 have received 29.8% of all administered vaccines.

Geographically, the largest group — 27.1% — live in the “North Central” region, stretching approximately from Point Loma to Del Mar and east to Poway. The fewest vaccines — 12.8% — have been administered to people living in East County, which may be due to a thinner population density.

For those eligible and looking to make a vaccine appointment, some tips include:

  • contact your health care providers to request the vaccine, then make an appointment
  • do not schedule an appointment if you have COVID-19 or are sick
  • wear a mask

— City News Services contributed to this article