Nevada County sticks with state for vaccine distribution

Nevada County is the latest jurisdiction to sign a memorandum of understanding with the state for its vaccine distribution rather than contracting directly with Blue Shield, California’s appointed third party administrator.

In January, the state announced a $15 million deal with Blue Shield to administer its vaccine efforts, aimed at adding consistency and speed to the rollout.

However, since then, counties statewide have taken issue with the “expansive” contract, reluctant to sign on to the new state system.

As of last Friday, Kern County was the only local health jurisdiction to sign on with the Blue Shield arrangement.

On Tuesday the Board of Supervisors approved the MOU, which “reflects counties’ preference to enter in an agreement with the State versus with the (third party administrator,)” it read.

According to County Counsel Kit Elliott, Northern California counties had issues with provisions in the agreement to vaccinate “anyone eligible in California,” rather than prioritizing county residents.

They also objected to parts of the original contract that “privatize” the vaccine distribution, treating Nevada County’s health department like any other vaccine provider with no priority.

“It was very one-sided, with a lot of requirements for the county, and a lot of control by the (third party administrator,)” Elliott said in an email. “With the way they set up the incentivizing, there seems to be more of a focus on numbers. There is no mention of equity that the State was requiring.”

The county is required by the state to sign either a contract with Blue Shield or MOU with the state.

“Hopefully, it won’t create changes to people trying to get the vaccine, except in a beneficial way,“ Health and Human Services Agency Director Ryan Gruver said. ”Practically speaking, it should not impact the way that people get vaccines, they’re doing everything they can to onboard our existing providers.“

According to Gruver, as more providers are onboarded to the statewide system it could become a more consistent experience for people signing up for appointments and counties reporting vaccine administration.

“I think the devil is in the details and it remains to be seen how effective that is,” he added.

John Orona is a Staff Writer for The Union, a sister publication to the Sierra Sun. To contact him, email or call 530-477-4229.

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