(KGTV) — California health officials announced Friday that starting next month, another four to six million people will be eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine, including those with high-risk medical conditions.
Starting March 15, the state will expand vaccine eligibility to allow healthcare providers to "use their clinical judgment" to administer vaccines to patient ages 16 - 64 who have severe medical conditions, including:
- 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
- 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 as a result of a developmental or other severe high-risk disability, one or more of the following:
- The patient 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,
- Providing adequate and timely COVID care will be particularly challenging as a result of the individual's disability
California continues to allow those residents in Phase 1A and the first tier of Phase 1B to receive the vaccine as well.
State Health Director Dr. Mark Ghaly acknowledged that the ability to vaccinate more individuals will depend on the federal supply of vaccines the state receives.
San Diego County leaders have not yet announced if San Diego will be able to expand to these people on March 15.
The state’s announcement came the same day that San Diego County said an anticipated shipment of doses would be delayed, causing weekend Petco Park vaccines to get pushed to the following week. In addition, the day before the state’s announcement, county leaders said they hoped to expand vaccines to the next tier within 2-3 weeks, which includes teachers, law enforcement and food workers.
County leaders have repeatedly emphasized that these expansions of eligible people are only possible if doses are supplied, and there has been uncertainty in regard to how many doses are coming in the near future.
In San Diego County, despite more people being eligible for a vaccine, officials have said that due to supply they are prioritizing healthcare workers and individuals 65 and older before administering shots to those in the first tier of Phase 1B, which also includes workers in law enforcement, education, and food and agriculture.
For many in San Diego, the state’s announcement is a light at the end of the tunnel, even if the exact timeline is not guaranteed.
“She has the biggest personality you’ve ever met,” said Edward Hershey, whose daughter Julia has Williams Syndrome.
He said she’s at a higher risk of catching coronavirus, so the news that she could be near the front of the line for a vaccine brings hope.
“They’re more at risk because a lot them, especially my daughter, have issues with social distancing right? She just wants to run up and give you a hug,” said Hershey.
Debbie Kinney of Chula Vista said her “family” is also relieved to find out they’re next. This family is one bonded by second chances.
“I think it’s going to give a lot of transplant patients - whether you’re kidney, liver, lungs, heart - a lot of peace of mind,” said Kinney.
May of 2021 marks 12 years since Kinney got a heart transplant from a 38-year-old man. She was given a second chance at life when she got her new heart, and in 2021 got her third shot at life. This time, it was in the arm. She's older than 65 so she's been eligible for a vaccine, but has transplant peers who are not able to get vaccinated quite yet.
Kinney said the last year has been stressful for people who have had organ transplants because their immune systems are not strong, so they’ve had to be extra cautious.
“I’m just scared. I’m really afraid of COVID,” said Kinney.
With the new addition of people to the eligibility list, people like Kinney are getting another chance at life, and people like Julia are being acknowledged.
“This is a lifeline. It means their needs are being heard. They may not always have a voice but that somebody has spoken up or people have spoken for them and the state is responding and taking care of these people that need our support,” said Hershey.
County public health officials have reported receiving about 651,450 doses of vaccine and administering 550,707 doses. Thus far, about 15.5% of San Diegans over 16 have received at least one dose of the two-dose vaccination. About 3.3% of the county's population is fully vaccinated.