California expands COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to everyone age 65 and older

California is expanding eligibility for coronavirus vaccines to anyone age 65 and older, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said Wednesday.

The move is an effort to speed up the rollout of shots, after the Trump administration criticized states for being too rigid with vaccination priority groups.

COVID-19 cases are surging across California, and Newsom said the move will allow nearly 6.6 million people to be vaccinated. Yet overall, the state is struggling to administer the doses on hand, even though officials say demand far outpaces supply.

“There is no higher priority than efficiently and equitably distributing these vaccines as quickly as possible to those who face the gravest consequences,” Newsom said in a statement. “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.”

As of Wednesday, California has received 3.4 million doses, but has administered fewer than 900,000 of them, according to federal figures.

Last week, Newsom expanded access to all health workers and relaxed guidelines for unused doses, to make sure they were not going to waste. The state said demand has subsided among health workers, making it easier to open access to people age 65 and up.  

Newsom has set a goal of 1 million additional vaccines administered by the end of this week.

While the move will prioritize some of the people most at risk for hospitalization or even death from the virus, it seems to move them ahead of educators, childcare providers and food and agriculture workers who would be next on the priority list. 

The state said people in Phase 1A — health care workers and long-term care residents — remain the highest priority to receive vaccines. 

“With our hospitals crowded and ICUs full, we need to focus on vaccinating Californians who are at highest risk of becoming hospitalized to alleviate stress on our health care facilities,” said Tomás Aragón, director of the California Department of Public Health and State Public Health Officer. “Prioritizing individuals age 65 and older will reduce hospitalizations and save lives.”

California’s announcement follows updated federal guidance to expand the pool of those eligible to receive the vaccine to individuals 65 and older. In addition, the Trump administration said anyone 16 to 64 years old with a documented medical condition should also qualify for a shot.

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 Gavin Newsom Vaccine

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