Healthcare Privacy

Santa Clara County health officials fear immigrants may not take COVID-19 vaccine over privacy concerns

Santa Clara County officials worry a federal data sharing plan may spark distrust among immigrants and discourage undocumented people from taking the COVID-19 vaccine.

“We’re very concerned about the fact that any information transfer may discourage people from participating in the vaccine program,” said County Executive Jeff Smith.

Assistant County Counsel Douglas Press said his office is seeking more information on the data sharing agreement between state and federal leaders. Once the county reviews details, it will see if the plan complies with local policies on collecting information about people

Supervisor Joe Simitian said he wants to see an update on the data sharing at next week’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

“The potential for such an effort to dissuade undocumented residents from our county from participating in this program is, I think, a significant one with implications for not only that community but for the entire community.” Simitian said. “It’s got some public health implications for not just members of the undocumented community but for the entire larger community.”

Testing Officer Dr. Marty Fenstersheib said Santa Clara County expects to receive 17,550 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 39,300 doses of the Moderna vaccine. The county submitted a plan for vaccine distribution and storage to the state last week.

The 56,850 doses will first be used on healthcare workers and residents of acute care facilities, who are among the first vaccine priority groups in California.

Fenstersheib said 230 of the doses will go to San Benito County because that county does not have proper storage facilities.

“The first bit of vaccine coming to our county will not even be enough to get us through the first two bullets in tier one,” said Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody . “That’s a very large group of individuals that fall into tier one.”

Fenstersheib said the county has about 75,000 acute care hospital workers, and the first round will only be available for 10 to 12% of them.

Fenstersheib said if the FDA approves the Pfizer vaccine, the county will receive about 6,000 of the 17,550 doses by mid-December, which will all go to acute care staff.

Elderly and other high-risk patients of acute care facilities will receive the vaccine through commercial pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens that are participating in a federal program, he said.

Although the county will supply healthcare providers with vaccines, it is up to the hospitals to determine which staff members to vaccinate.

He added the county will not be conserving any of the first vaccine shipment for second doses. Health officials expect to receive future shipments to be used for the booster shots.

Health officials updated their vaccine plans to ensure vaccines will be available throughout every geographic location in the county.

Simitian said the county needs to ensure private healthcare providers do their part.

Smith said the county would demand private healthcare providers step up in providing vaccines, similar to how they made them perform more COVID-19 testing.

“We’ll be aggressive this time if we feel they’re disabling the process,” said Smith.

Contact Mauricio La Plante at [email protected] or follow @mslaplantenews on Twitter.

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