California Officials To Allow Covid-19 Vaccinations For High-Risk Individuals Ages 16 & Up Starting In March

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Tom Tapp
·4 min read
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Amid the closure of the state’s biggest Covid-19 vaccination site over a precipitous drop in supply, California state health officials announced on Friday that the state would soon allow another 4 million-6 million residents to qualify for vaccination. There are currently 13 million people in the state who are eligible for vaccination.

Per a “provider bulletin” sent by the state sent to medical professionals on Friday:

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“Beginning March 15, healthcare providers may use their clinical judgement to vaccinate individuals age 16-64 who are deemed to be at the very highest risk for morbidity and mortality from COVID-19 as a direct result of one or more of the following severe health conditions.”

Those conditions include:

-Cancer, current with debilitated or immunocompromised state Chronic kidney disease, stage 4 or above
-Chronic pulmonary disease, oxygen dependent
-Down syndrome
-Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant
-Pregnancy
-Sickle cell disease
-Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies (excludes hypertension)
-Severe obesity (Body Mass Index ≥ 40 kg/m2)
-Type 2 diabetes mellitus with hemoglobin A1c level greater than 7.5%

Or…

-If the individual is likely to develop severe life-threatening illness or death from COVID-19 infection

-Acquiring COVID-19 will limit the individual’s ability to receive ongoing care or services vital to their well-being and survival

-If providing adequate and timely COVID care will be particularly challenging as a result of the individual’s disability

See the provider bulletin here.

The announcement comes on the same day operations at Dodger Stadium — the state’s largest vaccination site — was shuttered due to lack of vaccine. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said late Wednesday that the site had run out of vaccine because the city’s allocation dropped more than 80% week-over-week.

“This week we only received 16,000 new doses. That’s about the number of new doses we give out every single day,” he said. “That is down 90,000 from the week before. That is unacceptable.”

Meanwhile, according to The Fresno Bee, Fresno County’s allocation was doubled to 19,000 doses this week. Last week, the county got 8,000.

When Governor Gavin Newsom was questioned this week about whether the new Fresno operation would cannibalize vaccine from other sites in the area he replied, “Everything’s dynamic. It depends upon what the State of California gets. Again, the state doesn’t have doses of vaccines. The federal government distributes those vaccines through their networks.”

It’s a response the governor has given again and again, insisting that the state is not the middleman and that distribution happens directly from the federal government to providers, as with the seasonal flu vaccine. But what Garcetti was pointing out was that the state’s push to rapidly expand vaccination sites is drying up a pool of vaccines that are already in short supply. Currently, all Californians over the age of 65 are eligible.

Asked more specifically if the increasing prevalence of vaccination sites may have contributed to the dropoff in supply Garcetti observed, “It is a little bit of Hunger Games out there. We’re doing kind of an ‘all the above approach.’ I think part of this is we’ve gone to so many places without the supply matching that, that you’ve seen some of the core places…like ours and the county mega sites not have as much supply.”

When asked on Friday about concerns over vaccine supply vs. demand, administration officials said that the hope is that supplies increase by the time the eligibility pool and distribution network also increase. It’s not out of the question given that President Joe Biden this week announced a deal this week for 200 million more doses of vaccine.

The state is bringing on a third party entity to help centralize vaccine distribution. While that agreement hasn’t been revealed yet, Newsom has promised it is coming soon. On Friday, state health and human services director Dr. Mark Ghaly said that officials will announce the “next age phase” when that third party partner comes on.

As to when all Californians will be eligible for vaccination, a spring or early summer timeframe has been floated but, given the unknowns about vaccine supply, administration officials say timing for such eligibility is “really unclear right now.”

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