The COVID-19 vaccine rollout has been difficult and is taking longer than expected, but finally Santa Clara County officials say they are seeing notable progress.
On Monday, the county announced that more than half of residents 75 years and older and 43.7% of those 65 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
This brings the county's total to 232,761 residents partially or fully vaccinated, constituting 14.5% of the county's population eligible for getting the vaccine (those 16 years and older).
County officials said this new milestone reflects "strong progress" toward their goal to get 85% of those 16 and older vaccinated by Aug. 1 of this year.
"It is heartening to see that as a county, we have made such great progress in vaccinating our older residents who are at very high risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19," said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, the county's COVID-19 testing and vaccine officer.
Those 65 and older made up 81% of COVID-19 deaths and around 60% of hospitalizations, which is why they have been prioritized for the vaccine.
The next group of people prioritized and slated to get the vaccine starting March 15 are those ages 16-65 with at least one "severe health condition," state health officials announced on Friday.
Those conditions include cancer, Down syndrome, pregnancy, stage four or higher kidney disease, pulmonary diseases necessitating oxygen, a weakened immune system due to an organ transplant, sickle cell disease, obesity, Type 2 diabetes and heart conditions like coronary artery disease and cardiomyopathies.
State guidelines allow counties to follow in similar suit, but Santa Clara County could delay vaccinations for the March 15 group at its own discretion.
In the past, the county waited to vaccinate those 65 years and older, despite the state giving the green light, because of low vaccine supply.
Fenstersheib said vaccine supply still remains a problem.
"This historic effort is saving lives, but we must continue to accelerate our work to reach our entire community, with particular focus on the communities most impacted by COVID-19," Fenstersheib said. "In addition, we need sufficient vaccine supply from the state and federal government to achieve our goal of widespread community protection."
Currently, those eligible for COVID-19 vaccination includes all health care workers, those in long-term care facilities and those 65 years and older.
Residents can make an appointment by visiting the sccfreevax.org site or by calling 211 for assistance in multiple languages.
The county also launched two mobile clinics that do not require appointments located at the Gilroy Senior Center, 7371 Hanna St., Gilroy, and the Public Health Story Road Hub, 1775 Story Road, San Jose.
Vaccinations will be available on Wednesdays in Gilroy starting at 8 a.m. and Thursdays and Fridays in San Jose with on-site registration starting at 8:30 a.m.