PAUL SISSON, FEB. 25, 2021, San Diego Union-Tribune
Essential workers at UC San Diego are not waiting in the same vaccination lines as their off-campus peers, university officials confirmed this week. County officials announced Wednesday that teachers, law enforcement officers, farmers and others — a group estimated to exceed 500,000 people throughout the region — can start signing up for vaccination appointments through state or county-operated scheduling systems Saturday. But similar opportunities have already been afforded to UCSD employees.
And, while the county warned that it will not have enough supply on hand to make much of a dent in the expected demand for doses among the droves of workers likely to to start requesting appointments this weekend, the UC system, officials confirmed in an email Tuesday, receives a vaccine allocation directly from the California Department of Public Health that “is separate from vaccine supplied by the County of San Diego for other operations.”
It was unclear Thursday afternoon exactly when the broader effort started on campus. The university did not specify the start date, but two local residents connected to the university who requested anonymity out of concerns for their continued employment said they thought the effort got going in earnest last week. One of the two said they were surprised to learn that a teacher’s assistant in their 20s had received their first dose at a time when widespread vaccination of local school teachers has not yet begun. In a statement, the university said that it has begun vaccinating “frontline essential employees,” including “emergency response personnel, housing and dining workers and other essential employees working on campus.”
The university said it is following CDPH guidelines in deciding who to vaccinate. Those guidelines do include “all staff in colleges, universities, junior colleges, community colleges and other postsecondary facilities.”
As an entity that is legally separate from the county where it resides, the university does have some leeway in who it decides to vaccinate and when. In a statement, the CDPH noted that it considers the University of California to be a “multi-county entity” able to receive vaccine for inoculation of its patients and employees in addition to the public. That designation has sent a significant number of doses directly to UCSD, with a statewide dashboard maintained by CDPH listing the university with 24,820 doses on hand as of Wednesday, significantly more than were listed for any other UC campus. It was unclear, though, whether all of those doses were part of the university’s allocation or whether some came from the county to supply UCSD’s super vaccination clinic near Petco Park. That facility does serve the public.
UC, however, does seem to have a leg up on its peers where vaccine supply is concerned. A representative of California State University, which operates 23 campuses statewide, confirmed in an email Thursday that its locations receive doses from their respective county public health agencies.
UCSD has made state and national headlines for its vaccination might. Working with the San Diego Padres baseball team and San Diego County, it was the first in California to set up a vaccination superstation capable of putting thousands of vaccines in arms per day. As of Wednesday, the university reported having administered 146,504 total doses, with about 120,000 at Petco. More than 40,000 first and second doses are said to have gone to UCSD health system patients with more than 20,000 firsts and seconds going to health system employees. It was not clear whether the employee numbers included non health care workers.
Since the first few thousand doses began arriving at local hospitals in December, vaccination prioritization has seemed as sensitive an issue as beach access at the La Jolla children’s pool. Health systems who have received supply to vaccinate their workers have faced significant grumbling for any doses that land outside the group that works directly with patients. Scripps Health, for example, received some backlash for vaccinating its board of directors which it said was made up either of trustees who intended to volunteer in its hospitals during the frenetic holiday surge or who were old enough to meet the 65 and over age criteria.
...But, it does appear that campus workers will continue to enjoy more immediate access to vaccine because the UC system has its own dedicated vaccine supply that is not open to all comers. Why shouldn’t university workers draw from, and wait for, the same supply as their off-campus peers with similar risk profiles? Neither the California Department of Public Health nor the University of California president’s office responded to the question this week...