January 19, 2021

COVID-19 vaccine supply is limited and unpredictable

The January 13, 2021, expansion of eligibility in California to include people age 65 and older has not yet come with additional supply.

Kaiser Permanente is committed to getting the COVID-19 vaccine to our members and communities as soon as possible and to communicating frequently about the status of vaccine and appointment availability.

It is important to know that providers are informed of their vaccine deliveries on a weekly basis, and at this time, we are awaiting additional vaccine delivery. The quantities vary each week, therefore we can only schedule appointments for one week at a time. And we are receiving a small supply of vaccine in comparison to our membership.

For context, Kaiser Permanente has about 1.4 million members in California who are 65 or older. We have received a weekly average of about 20,000 first-and-second doses (40,000 single doses) since early December. We have been vaccinating health care workers and people in the state’s early priority groups, and accounting for second doses on hand. This is using nearly all of our current weekly allocation of the vaccine. Until supply increases, it will take several months to provide the 2 doses needed to that 65-and-older population alone.

As a result, most individuals will not be able to schedule a vaccine appointment at this time. Our phone and online appointment systems are being overloaded with requests for appointments, but we don’t have enough vaccine supply on hand to meet even a fraction of the demand. We received over 90,000 calls to our vaccine hotline on January 14, up from 38,000 on January 12. This is in addition to calls to clinical and health plan contact centers.

We sincerely apologize to our members who have encountered long wait times when calling for a vaccination appointment and understand the frustration this causes. We are grateful for everyone’s patience and are taking action to alleviate the situation as we work on more ways to increase access to vaccinations as supply allows:

  • We have increased staff in our call center, which operates 24 hours a day.
  • To avoid long hold times and to be able to meet the other medical care needs of our members, who are using the same phone and online tools, we are advising callers up front if there are no available vaccine appointments.
  • By the week of January 18, we will add an option to allow eligible members to self-schedule a vaccination appointment based on vaccine supplies.
  • We are reaching out to vaccination-eligible members with more information about what to expect. You can find new information as it becomes available at kp.org/covidvaccine.
  • We are working with the state and counties to set up mass vaccine locations and to reach the most vulnerable people in our communities. But we need more of the vaccine before these can open.

As production ramps up by manufacturers, we anticipate larger deliveries over the coming weeks. In addition to the expanded populations outlined by the January 13 state guidance, we are continuing to vaccinate those in phase 1A, including health care workers. As supplies increase, we will vaccinate more people.

At the same time, the prevalence of COVID-19 remains high in our communities. It is essential that everyone keep doing the things that work and save lives — wear a mask, wash hands frequently, avoid gatherings, and maintain social distance from others.