The California Department of Public Health has updated its COVID-19 vaccination framework, allowing severely disabled people and those with health conditions that put them at high risk to get in line for shots next month.
Starting March 15, health care providers will be able to vaccinate people ages 16 to 64 with the following health conditions:
• 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
• 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%
Additionally, if as a result of a developmental or other severe high-risk disability one or more of the following applies:
• The individual is likely to develop severe life-threatening illness or death from COVID-19 infection
• Acquiring COVID-19 will limit the individual’s ability to receive ongoing care or services vital to their well-being and survival
• Providing adequate and timely COVID care will be particularly challenging as a result of the individual’s disability
This makes roughly 4 to 6 million more people eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, in addition to the roughly 13 million people already eligible for vaccination — including health care workers. The new additions will push the total to nearly half the state's population of just under 40 million.
California has been plagued by vaccine shortages. California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly on Friday acknowledged he’s not sure how long it will take for the federal supply of shots to meet demand.
The state’s decision to rely largely on age for vaccine eligibility was criticized by those who said it failed to protect people under 65 and at high risk of infection and death from COVID-19.
Ghaly said the goal is to give providers more flexibility in determining who is most in need. He added whether an individual meets the criteria will be at the provider's discretion.
Although the state is still fine-tuning specifics on implementation, Ghaly added people who qualify for eligibility would be able to go to a mass vaccination site, and likely will need to have a doctor's note as proof.
When it comes to getting vaccinations to everyone who wants them, California still has a long way to go. As of Friday afternoon, more than 5.5 million shots had been administered in the state, according to California's COVID-19 vaccine dashboard.
— The Associated Press and KCRA3 contributed reporting.