State expands vaccine eligibility
All Californians 50 and older are now eligible to be vaccinated, a provision that kicked in on April 1, while everyone 16 and older will qualify two weeks later, on April 15.
The expansion means that the state will open up vaccinations to all adults before May 1, when President Joe Biden had anticipated the move nationwide.
Even with this expansion in eligibility and supply, it will take several months to vaccinate everyone who wants a vaccine, health officials warn.
It also is likely to spur a rush for appointments, leaving many people frustrated that they are unable to line up vaccinations.
Some counties have already been expanding the list of who is eligible. Solano County opened up vaccines to residents 50 and older two weeks ago. Contra Costa followed last week.
But health officials in Santa Clara County said despite the expanded eligibility, there are still far too few doses available.
Dr. Marty Fenstersheib noted at a briefing last week that the county has about 400,000 residents aged 50 to 64, but it would get only 58,000 doses this week despite having the capacity to vaccinate as many as 200,000 people.
"We are concerned," said Fenstersheib, the county's COVID-19 vaccine and testing officer. "We really just want to caution people to please continue to be patient" as they seek appointments.
Sutter Health, one of California's largest health systems, can vaccinate more than 25,000 patients daily but also has too few doses to meet demand, spokeswoman Angeline Sheets said.
The state expects a surge in supply shortly, however: approximately 2.5 million first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccinations per week in the first half of April, and more than 3 million in the second half of the month.
That is a substantial increase from the 1.8 million doses the state receives per week. Health leaders have long said supply is the biggest constraint, and that the state has capacity to administer about 3 million vaccines per week and should be able to administer up to 4 million by the end of April.
As of Wednesday, 900,319 doses of the vaccines had been administered in Santa Clara County, according to the California Department of Public Health vaccine dashboard.
Nearly 284,000 people in San Mateo County have received a dose of COVID-19 vaccine (44.2% of residents age 16 and older) and nearly half of those — 135,000 — are fully vaccinated, San Mateo County Health announced Wednesday.
Those seeking a vaccine appointment in Santa Clara County should go to sccfreevax.org. In addition to the county and large health care providers such as Kaiser and Sutter Health, pharmacies at Rite Aid, CVS, Walgreens, Safeway, Albertsons, Vons, Pavilions and Walmart are also offering coronavirus vaccinations.
State senator seeks expanded vaccine eligibility
State Sen. Josh Becker, D-Menlo Park, on Monday urged California health officials to expand vaccine eligibility in San Mateo County's vulnerable communities ahead of April 15, the state plans to allow all adults 16 and older to get vaccinated.
In a news release, Becker requested that the state allow vaccinations for all residents 16 and older in communities like East Palo Alto and North Fair Oaks, which have had higher infection rates and lower vaccination rates compared to the rest of San Mateo County. The goal is to make it as easy as possible for people to get vaccinated, Becker said.
"Communities like East Palo Alto are home to large numbers of essential frontline workers who have heroically stepped up and supported all of us through the entire pandemic but remain largely unvaccinated," Becker said in a statement.
Vaccination rates in East Palo Alto continue to lag behind the average in San Mateo County. As of Thursday, 23.8% of eligible East Palo Alto residents have been vaccinated so far compared to 44.2% countywide.
In terms of infection rates, East Palo Alto represents about 4% of the population in San Mateo County but has had 10% of COVID-19 cases overall. In the last 30 days, 8% of the county's cases were in East Palo Alto, according to county data updated on March 26.
In San Mateo County, residents eligible for the vaccine include health care workers, residents 65 and older and essential workers in the education, child care, food and agriculture and emergency response sectors.
The county is also vaccinating people experiencing homelessness and jail inmates while some health care providers are providing vaccinations for people 16 to 64 years old with underlying medical conditions.
Becker took issue with the current scope of eligibility categories.
"Firstly, roles like construction worker, housekeeper, and gardener are not listed," Becker said. "Secondly, many in East Palo Alto may, for example, take care of kids but may not be a licensed childcare provider. These people are not coming in if they think they may not be eligible because they don't want to take someone else's spot."
Expanding eligibility would also help families who live together get vaccinated.
"When you have a hard-hit community with massive community spread and folks living in crowded homes together, it doesn't make sense for a 49-year-old to drive a 70-year-old and for that 49-year old not to get vaccinated," Becker said.
This isn't the first call for increased vaccinations in East Palo Alto. In a news conference March 1, Becker and other local leaders called for the state to increase vaccine clinics in East Palo Alto given its low vaccination rate. Since then, the county announced weekly vaccination clinics in East Palo Alto through the Ravenswood Family Health Center.
Becker commended the county for its efforts and said, "Now we just need to make it as easy as possible for people in these communities to get vaccinated and that's why I'm calling for this expanded eligibility."
People can sign up at MyTurn.ca.gov to be notified when they become eligible for the vaccine. A MyTurn help line is available at 833-422-4255.
Those struggling to make an appointment can also contact Becker's district office at 650-212-3313.
New COVID-19 cases, deaths
Santa Clara County as of Tuesday had 114,482 cumulative COVID-19 cases and 1,940 deaths. There were 114 people hospitalized, 17 of which were new.
San Mateo County as of Tuesday had 40,385 cumulative cases of COVID-19, with 547 deaths. There were 25 people hospitalized.
Since the start of the pandemic, 1.69% of Santa Clara County cases of COVID-19 have been fatal and 1.35% of San Mateo County cases have been fatal, according to the California Reportable Disease Information Exchange and San Mateo County Health.