SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) — California health officials announced a new age group will soon be able to receive COVID-19 vaccinations.
Beginning March 15, state healthcare providers can begin vaccinating people age 16-64 with underlying health conditions, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said.
That’s about 4 to 6 million Californians eligible to receive the vaccine.
“I’m delighted to see as many people get vaccinated as possible. Particularly, those that are at higher risk of increased chances of winding up in the hospital and increase chances for dying,” Dr. John Swartzberg said.
Dr. John Swartzberg, an infectious disease expert at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, says one issue with this expansion is verifying the severity of someone’s health condition.
The underlying health conditions include cancer, severe obesity and type 2 diabetes. It also includes pregnant people and extends to other priority groups including health care workers, teachers and those age 65 and older.
“Trying to parse out these kinds of issues is really very difficult in any circumstance much less in the middle of a pandemic and when people need to get vaccinated,” Swartzberg said.
Even with current issues with who can get the vaccine, the amount of doses has been low across the state and appointments have been filling up quickly.
Expanding the eligibility pool will likely build upon those frustrations if the supply continues to not meet the demand.
Dr. Swartzberg expects it will take until April for things to run smoothly.
“What we need to do is have the logistics working hand in glove or fitting hand in glove and with the vaccine supply and we’re not there yet,” Swartzberg said.
Earlier this week, California confirmed its first cases of the South African variant of COVID-19 in the Bay Area.
The South African variant was discovered in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa in Oct. 2020. The CDC says this variant has multiple mutations in the spike protein, which is concerning.
However, the CDC says, “currently there is no evidence to suggest that this variant has any impact on disease severity.”
On a national level, President Joe Biden said his administration has secured 200 million additional doses of the coronavirus vaccine.
Biden said the additional doses would bring the total number of doses to 600 million, enough to inoculate 300 million people. The schedule for delivery of the additional doses is unknown at this time.
And the pace of injections could increase further if a third coronavirus vaccine from drugmaker Johnson & Johnson receives approval from the Food and Drug Administration.
Furthermore, Dr. Anthony Fauci is predicting that nearly all Americans will have access to COVID-19 vaccinations by April, as increased supply allows most people to get shots.
CVS Pharmacy locations nationwide on Friday began giving free doses of the COVID-19 vaccines for eligible people.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.