California's working groups overseeing the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines are discussing potentially making the vaccine available to everyone age 65 and older, the state's Health and Human Services Secretary said Tuesday.
As of Monday, 816,673 coronavirus vaccine doses have been administered to health care workers and nursing home staff and residents, according to state officials.
While the state is rolling out vaccine doses in phases, targeting the most at-risk demographics first, new guidance Tuesday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encouraged states to begin vaccinating everyone age 65 and up rather than segmenting them depending on whether they have underlying medical conditions.
"We believe that having more vaccine, inviting more to be vaccinated will allow California to go faster and quicker through our population and get that vaccine out of our freezers and into our populations to get that protection," HHS Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly.
Roughly 15% of the state's population is older than 65, according to 2019 population estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Ghaly noted that the state's vaccination rollout has been somewhat tempered so far due to a general lack of available doses as well as a limited number of medical professionals licensed to administer vaccine doses.
Both of those are expected to change in the coming days, however, with state and local public health officials collaborating to establish large-scale drive-thru coronavirus vaccination sites at sports stadiums like Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and the Oakland Coliseum as well as Cal Expo in Sacramento and Disneyland.
In addition, the state is recruiting additional medical practitioners such as pharmacists and dentists as well as the National Guard to increase the administration of vaccine doses.
Prior to the new CDC guidance, the state planned to expand its vaccination pool this month to people age 75 and older as well as education and child care, emergency services, food and agriculture workers.
Those groups are still expected to begin receiving vaccine doses in the coming weeks in addition to those over 65, assuming the state's vaccine distribution working group expands the vaccination pool.
To date, nearly 2.5 million vaccine doses have been shipped to California's local health departments and health care systems, according to state officials.
Ghaly said that figure is still well behind what the state had hoped for by now.
"The truth is, with such limited supply of vaccine and little bit coming into the state, we continue to look at ways that our structure allows us to get vaccine out to those populations as quickly as possible while still allowing us to, unimpeded, finish the vaccine that we've already received," Ghaly said.
According to Ghaly, in addition to the more than 800,000 doses administered, roughly 99,000 state residents have received both doses of the vaccine required to build immunity.