EXCLUSIVE: Blue Shield CEO explains plan to increase CA's vaccine doses to 4M per week

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Blue Shield plans to increase the states capacity for delivery of COVID-19 vaccines from 1 million doses per week to 4 million doses per week.

ABC7 speaks exclusively to Blue Shield's CEO Paul Markovich about their plans to expedite vaccine distribution in California.

Luz Pena: "Walk us through, when we talk about Blue Shield taking over California's vaccine distribution, what's specifically is your role?"

Paul Markovich: "The main role that we are playing is to try to implement a performance management system. So that we know where the vaccine is at all times. From the time is allocated by the federal government to the state of California to the time it's injected into somebody's arm. The ability to know where this vaccine is and to whom it's been administered is extra ordinarily valuable to secure the maximum supply for California and to make sure that we are vaccinating people in the right sequence."

In January, Governor Newsom announced the goal was for Blue Shield to help expedite the vaccine roll out. Blue Shield says they hope to increase the states capacity for delivery of COVID-19 vaccines from 1 million doses per week to 4 million doses per week by the end of March.

RELATED: Blue Shield officially takes over California's COVID-19 vaccine distribution network

Paul Markovich explained how they are planning to reach that goal, "Well we are going though and contracting with folks. We are probably close to and right around 3 million now in terms of capacity. We are not getting that much. We are getting maybe a million and a half or so doses a week. We have the capacity for twice that. We have various providers we are working with to expand that access and capacity. But I don't think getting to that 4 million capacity is going to be problematic. The challenge is getting enough vaccine to be able to use that capacity."

VIDEO: Experts question Blue Shield's algorithms, incentive-based vaccine distribution plan
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Experts are concerned over Blue Shield of California's plan to vaccinate the state, saying it lacks transparency is how they created their algorithm. There's also concern over the "Network Incentive Payments" clause in their contract.



California is using a mathematical formula to decide who gets vaccinated first.

Luz Pena: "When we are talking about this algorithm, are you saying that in some cases the state will not be using this algorithm and instead they're going to listen to what Blue Shield is recommending?"

Paul Markovich: "I think there's always going to be circumstances where you can't just do this based on a mathematical formula. That approach is used to try to simplify the ability to take priorities and drive them through. But there are always going to be other factors that I think the state is going to want to take into consideration."

Markovich says their system will not create delays.

"We have to make sure we maintain momentum in vaccinating people, and that we don't disrupt the current progress that we have and transition to a new performance management system," said Markovich.

Blue Shield's goal is to vaccinate 25 million people by the summer.

Luz Pena: "How is Blue Shield deciding which counties and health care providers receive a certain amount of doses?"

Paul Markovich: "That comes back to the priority of the state. Which population are in the highest priority? For example over 65 is a part of your eligible population and certain employment sectors are well what percentage of the population in a given county is made up of the eligible population."

Markovich says their main goal is to understand vaccine inventory and coordinate efforts to expedite vaccine distribution.

RELATED: A first look at Blue Shield's plan to take over California's vaccine distribution

"How do we make sure we supply them in an appropriate way? How do we make sure they have predictable supply so they can make appointments and honor them going forward? It's really a logistical and coordination effort. We are not actually doing the vaccinating or creating the vaccine. But if we can get the system to run at optimal efficiency and smoothly it means we will the maximum vaccine to Californian's and get the right people vaccinate in the right order," said Markovich

Markovich says they are prioritizing their vaccine allocation plan based on several factors including, "What is the infection rate for COVID-19 as a percentage of the population? What is the death rate for COVID-19 as a percentage of the population in each region? The Central Valley will be first in line, followed by Southern California and some Bay Area Counties. The entire Bay Area will be part of the third and final wave.

As to how equipped is Blue Shield to take on this role, Markovich said "we have a network of over 65,000 physicians, thousands of pharmacies, and over 350 hospitals across all 58 counties in every zip code in the state."
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