Riverside County vaccine rollout hampered by ineligible people signing up for appointment, health officials say

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) -- The line of health care workers and those eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine wrapped around the block outside a clinic in Riverside Wednesday morning. Some people said they had to wait for more than an hour and a half.

"What's the point of making an appointment if we all have to wait in this line," said one Temecula resident whose mother tried to sign up for an appointment online, only to be told she was placed on a waiting list and had to register again later.

"It seems to be a continuing narrative that goes from federal to state to local government just being ill equipped and under-prepared to handle this pandemic," the Temecula resident added.

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Part of the problem, according to Riverside County public health officials, is that many who indeed signed up online weren't actually eligible based on the current tier.

"As vaccine clinics are opening, we're getting people into those appointment slots who don't qualify," said Dr. Geoffrey Leung of the Riverside University Health System.

Riverside County is increasing vaccine availability as the state of California has now made anyone 65 and older eligible for it. This afternoon, county health officials announced clinics at places like Corona High School starting Thursday. These facilities will offer vaccines by appointment only, which should be made on the county's vaccine distribution website.

But Dr. Leung said partnerships with pharmacies will be required to make the vaccine more widely available.

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"We think the only way we'll be able to vaccine people in such a short period of time is with everyone's help and partnership," Leung said.

Meanwhile, pharmacies say they're ready to help distribute the vaccine in a more widespread basis. Many pharmacies in California will get their first shipments of the vaccine Thursday.

"There is a pharmacy within five miles of 90% of Americans," said Steve Anderson, president of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. "Pharmacies have the capacity to meet the demand for 100 million vaccine doses in just one month."
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