California health officials announced Wednesday that all California residents age 65 and older would be next in line to receive the vaccine following the first phase given to health care workers.
The announcement came as something of a surprise to many as the state had largely hinted Tuesday that it would have been opened up to the much more limited grouping of those over 65 with health conditions. However, following lower than expected vaccination rates in the state so far and Governor Gavin Newsom pushing for more and more vaccination goals, such as inoculating 1 million people by January 17th, California expanded the next vaccination pool by millions of people. To date, California has only administered 1/3rd of the 2.4 million vaccines currently in the state.
“There is no higher priority than efficiently and equitably distributing these vaccines as quickly as possible to those who face the gravest consequences,” Governor Newsom said. “Individuals 65 and older are now the next group eligible to start receiving vaccines. To those not yet eligible for vaccines, your turn is coming. We are doing everything we can to bring more vaccine into the state.”
Earlier this week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and health officials in the Trump Administration had said that they had switched their recommended guidelines for earlier vaccinations from those 65 and older with underlying health conditions to everyone over 65, as well as those ages 16 to 64 with underlying medical issues. Officials said that many states were going too slow in inoculating people, and that a larger pool was needed to quickly increase the number of people vaccinated.
“That is the most effective way to save lives now,” explained U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar in a press conference earlier this week. “And some states’ heavy-handed micromanagement of this process has stood in the way of vaccine reaching a broader swath of the vulnerable population more quickly.”
65 and older vaccinations
With the next phase, including those 65 and older, now scheduled to begin sometime in late January, California is now quickly building the needed vaccination sites and other needed areas across the state. Many places are greatly expanding their cold storage facilities in anticipation for one type of the vaccine, with the state also now increasing the number of people who can administer vaccine injections, including dentists and other non-doctor or nurses health care professionals. Large vaccination sites are also currently being built up in stadiums, fairgrounds, and even theme parks in large population counties.
Some officials and experts are concerned that such a large new pool may block access to the vaccine to those who are more at risk, including essential workers and those with health conditions.
“A lot of people are in setting with members of the public keeping essential services going,” Joshua Blum, a health and wellness advisor for several businesses in central California said. “With so many healthy 65 year olds and older now being allowed the vaccine, they now are in the same line as essential workers and older Californians who may need this to live. We are going to be vaccinating more in the next few months, but as we’ve seen, COVID can get out of hand quickly. A lot of essential businesses were counting on being on a more exclusive higher tier to get their workers vaccinated quickly and in an orderly fashion. It may not be as simple now.”
However, others noted that many have declined the vaccine already despite being allowed to receive it.
“We’re seeing 20% to 40% of people currently eligible declining the vaccine,” explained San Diego nurse Lisa Williams-West in a Globe interview. “One nursing home I know of, all but three people there said no. This isn’t great and is incredibly idiotic. I’m not going to mince words. They have the chance to help save people and they aren’t because they don’t want a $40 shot.
“This bigger planned rollout is a godsend. If those refusal rates hold firm, it’s not going to be as crazy as people think when it comes to lines, and we’ll get a lot more people vaccinated. Vaccination is our best bet at ending this right now, and we need as many people vaccinated as possible to make this work.”
The launch of the next phase of vaccinations is expected to be announced in the coming weeks.
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