California State Governor Gavin Newsom’s office committed to give Bay Area health departments several million dollars worth of funding to help the distribution of coronavirus vaccine doses in hard-stricken regions.

Amid growing local criticism of his administration, Newsom pledged to give $7.6 million to nine Bay Area counties. The money would support the expansion of vaccination sites in high-risk neighborhoods in the region.

COVID-19 Vaccination Funds

Newsom’s financial support would also help residents sign up for appointments to be inoculated through My Turn. Officials can use the money to hire additional health care workers, said State Senator Dave Cortese’s office on Wednesday.

“This is a step in the right direction, but not nearly all that is needed to assist those that are suffering from a clear geographic and socioeconomic disadvantage. COVID-19 has only underscored the urgency of eliminating socioeconomic barriers and advancing health equity in our state,” Cortese said.

California officials announced a plan in March to put away 40% of its available coronavirus vaccine doses. The supply would be given to 400 priority zip codes. Authorities hope the assistance would help the easing of restrictions after they have delivered two million doses of the vaccine.

Officials identified the zip codes based on a health equity metric known as the “California Healthy Places Index.” This ranks areas based on their income, education levels, health care access, and other factors.

Despite the massive financial assistance, many communities that expected themselves to be included in the list were left out. These areas were some of the hardest-hit in the region, recording a high number of positive cases and deaths from the coronavirus.

Only ten Bay Area zip codes made it to the list of priority areas. None of which were located in Marin, San Mateo, or Santa Clara counties.

“It’s criminal. It means people in our country at greatest risk of the pandemic will be getting less vaccines than people in counties that have done a worse job with dealing with poverty and health risk issues for years,” Santa Clara County Executive Jeff Smith said.

Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly of the California Health and Human Services, who supported the decision, said state officials were prioritizing counties that have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 virus.

However, in mid-March,  Cortese, several other state representatives, and many community organizations wrote a letter addressed to California officials. The document requested authorities to reconsider the prioritization list. They argued using zip codes was “clearly not an equitable approach and one that is completely disadvantaging the Bay Area.”

Cortese’s Wednesday announcement summarized the discussions with local organizations. Santa Clara County leaders did not reveal their plans in utilizing the donated funds when asked on Wednesday. However, Supervisor Cindy Chavez said she wanted to use the money to provide more vaccination locations in hard-hit communities, Mercury News reported.

“We’ve pulled out a lot of stops, the question really is what stops did we forget?” said Chavez. California officials will be giving Alameda, Contra Costa, and Santa Clara counties $1.5 million each. They will also provide San Francisco and San Mateo with $750,000. Finally, Marin, Napa, Solano, and Sonoma counties will each get $400,000, said Cortese’s office.