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Vaccine eligibility expands to millions of Californians with medical conditions

Posted at 4:42 PM, Mar 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-15 19:42:56-04

SAN DIEGO, Calif. (KGTV)— Millions of Californians ages 16 to 64 with specific disabilities or high-risk medical conditions ages are now eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

“If people are getting vaccinations, it’s better for everyone,” said Lauren Gillihan, a La Mesa resident who has been couped up at home, unable to visit with family and friends for a year.

Gillihan and her husband both have underlying medical conditions; she has Lupus, compromising her immune system, while her husband has Type 2 Diabetes.

She’s been worried about getting COVID-19. On Monday, she was finally able to book COVID-19 vaccination appointments for both of them.

“I jumped on first thing in the morning because we’re eligible today,” she said.

The California Department of Public Health said the following conditions are acceptable to determine eligibility.

  • 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
  • Pregnancy
  • 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%

The state also said people could qualify to get the vaccine if a healthcare provider determines that “A COVID-19 infection is likely to result in severe life-threatening illness or death.”

Gillihan has a doctor’s note from her provider. “I got the letter just in case,” she said.

San Diego County’s list of qualified medical conditions currently expands beyond the state’s.

  • Asthma (moderate-to-severe)
  • Cerebrovascular disease (affects blood vessels and blood supply to the brain)
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Hypertension or high blood pressure
  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, or use of other immune weakening medicines
  • Neurologic conditions, such as dementia
  • Liver disease
  • Overweight (BMI > 25 kg/m2, but < 30 kg/m2)
  • Obese (BMI > 30 kg/m2, but < 40 kg/m2)
  • Pulmonary fibrosis (having damaged or scarred lung tissues)
  • Thalassemia (a type of blood disorder)
  • Type 1 diabetes mellitus

Those who are eligible are asked first to try to go through their healthcare provider for a vaccine.
Other options will include pharmacies, local health departments, community pop-up clinics, and the state’s MyTurn website.

Vaccine supply is still very limited, so appointments won't always be available. The state expects the supply to increase throughout the spring.

The state said people would not need to provide documentation proving their health condition. Instead, they’ll be asked to sign a self-attestation that they fit the criteria.

A San Diego County spokesperson said in the county, people will only have to confirm that they fit the criteria verbally.

For Gillihan, getting the vaccine means getting her life back on track.

She's looking forward to spending time with her adult children and visiting friends who have already been vaccinated.

“I’m going to hug my kids,” she said. “I already have a mental list of the first things I’m going to do.”