California, Texas and 15 more states have now announced plans to open their vaccine eligibility to any residents aged 16 and up by mid-April, as the COVID-19 vaccine rollout begins to accelerate in the U.S.
The nation's most populous state, California, will expand their vaccine eligibility to anyone 50 and up starting April 1 and anyone 16 and up on April 15, enabling more than 24 million people to get vaccinated.
"In just a few weeks, there'll be no rules, no limitations, as it relates to the ability to get a vaccine administered," Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a press conference on Thursday, according to ABC News. "This state is going to come roaring back."
The next two most populous states — Texas and Florida — have also said they will open up their vaccine eligibility. Texas will allow anyone aged 16 and up to make an appointment starting March 29, and Florida residents 18 and up can get vaccinated beginning April 5.
March 29 will also be the start of vaccinations in residents 16 and up in Oklahoma, Ohio, North Dakota and Louisiana. And by April 12, Indiana, Montana, Connecticut, Michigan, Tennessee, Idaho, Iowa, Nevada, Missouri and Illinois will all have open eligibility.
Alaska was the first state to expand vaccinations to residents 16 and up, on March 10, and Mississippi, West Virginia, Utah and Georgia have all followed in the last two weeks.
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Of the three available vaccines, just Pfizer's is approved for people aged 16 and 17, while Moderna's and Johnson & Johnson's are allowed for those 18 and up. Both Pfizer and Moderna are now testing their vaccines on children between 6 months old and 12.
More than a quarter of Americans — 87,343,622 people — have now received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Of that group, 47,419,832, or 14.3% of the population, are now fully vaccinated against the virus. In most states, vaccines are restricted to people over age 65, residents of long-term care facilities, health care workers or people with certain pre-existing conditions.
President Joe Biden has asked all states to open up their vaccine eligibility to all adults by May 1, and after meeting his goal of seeing 100 million doses administered during his first 100 days in office well ahead of schedule, he has since upped the goal to 200 million doses on the same timeline.
However, there are still Americans who say they are hesitant to get vaccinated, according to recent polls. In a speech on March 11, Biden said that "we need millions more to get vaccinated" in order to end the pandemic. He's also concerned that some states are seeing a rise in cases as newer variants spread through the country.
"Getting vaccinated is the best thing we can do to fight back against these variants," he said.