SAN FRANCISCO – Hearing of excess vaccine and unfilled appointments frustrates Dr. Aaron Roland, a family physician who has been lobbying for doses to inoculate his patients, many of whom are low-income, immigrants or elderly.
The San Francisco Bay Area doctor has more than 200 patients who have inquired when he will offer inoculations against the coronavirus. One patient, who is 67, said he walked into a Safeway supermarket because signs said doses were available.
“But they said, ‘Oh no, they’re not really available. You just have to go online, just sign up online.’ It’s not something he does very easily,” said Dr. Roland, whose practice is in Burlingame, south of San Francisco.
California, swimming in vaccine, is in far better shape than just weeks ago when scoring an appointment was cause for celebration. Today, Los Angeles, San Diego and other populous counties are advertising that anyone can walk in for a shot, and the state is texting reminders that plenty of appointments are available. Rural Humboldt County even declined 1,000 extra doses last week due to lackluster demand.
More than 18 million of an estimated 32 million people eligible for vaccine in California are fully or partially vaccinated, including nearly half of people in economically vulnerable ZIP codes hardest hit by the pandemic and 73% of residents 65 and older. The country’s most populous state, like much of the U.S., appears to have hit a vaccine plateau.
The dwindling demand for vaccines illustrates the challenge that the U.S. faces in trying to conquer the pandemic, even as other countries are in the midst of full-blown medical emergencies and short on vaccine.
But that doesn’t mean everyone in California who wants a vaccine can get one — as some of Dr. Roland’s patients can attest.
Marlies Mokhtarzadeh was turned away from a downtown Millbrae pharmacy offering the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine by a clerk who told her to make an appointment online.