California Considers Reprioritizing COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout

California only gets around 500,000 vaccine doses a week, and to vaccinate everyone 65 and older in the state could take until May, doctors say.

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California is strongly considering doing away with the vaccine tiers, going solely to an age-based distribution starting with 65 and older, and that has some essential workers concerned. 

Meaning those who thought they were also up next, grocery store and farm workers and teachers, would be pushed back months.

“That’s what we’re struggling with. This really small amount of vaccine,” said Dr. Erica Pan, state epidemiologist. “Trying to look at who is filling our hospitals. Who’s dying from this disease and what can we prevent as soon as possible. With this very small amount, we do hope maybe in March, April, or May that there is going to be more vaccines available but it’s unpredictable at this point.”

Pan said California only gets around 500,000 vaccine doses a week, and to vaccinate everyone 65 and older in the state could take until May. 

In the Bay Area, a mass vaccination site opened Friday at the Mountain View Community Center.

78-year-old Sandy Taylor was the first person to receive the vaccine at this location.

"I was thrilled. Very happy," she said, "because I'd heard it could be weeks.. there weren't enough vaccines."

Santa Clara County acknowledges it does not have enough vaccines to cover the health care workers and those 75-years-old and older who are currently eligible.

Therefore, even though the state says seniors 65-years-old and older qualify, 70-year-old residents like Dominika Kraszewska was turned away.

“I am very, very, very disappointed, you know? It’s like we are getting mixed messages," she said.

Some on the committee disagree with the proposed change.

“To me, I question us no longer valuing occupation as a metric or a factor when it comes to essential workers,” said Jose Padilla from California Rural Legal Assistance. 

Andry Imparato from Disability Rights California said, “From our perspective, if we wait until May to get the other populations, a lot of people with disabilities under 65 are going to die unnecessarily.”

Florida made the change nearly a month ago. UCSF Infectious Disease Expert Dr. Peter Chin-Hong supports going to age-based tiers.

“It’s easy to enforce. You have a driver’s license,” said Chin-Hong. “Nobody worries about who’s more essential than who.”

He expects Pfizer and Moderna production will ramp up, and points out there are others waiting for approval like the one shot johnson and johnson vaccine. 

“It may not be months. I think the estimates about what’s coming down the pipeline is more robust than people believe,” said Chin-Hong.

But right now, the key factor from the state is that people 61 and older account for 65% of ICU admissions, and 83% of deaths. 

Sources say an announcement on vaccine tiers with more details could come as soon as Friday.

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