Editor’s note: After this story was published, the state health department clarified comments on a targeted program allowing family members to get vaccinated with eligible residents in certain hard-hit areas.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California is preparing for a major expansion in eligibility for COVID-19 vaccines, saying state residents ages 50 and up can start receiving the shot April 1, and that all residents ages 16 and older can be vaccinated starting April 15.
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The lifting of the state’s tiered eligibility rules will be possible because of a major increase in supply from vaccine manufacturers and the federal government, state leaders said. California expects to receive about 2.5 million doses per week in the first half of April, then more than 3 million doses per week in the second half of that month.
“The state has the capacity to administer more than 3 million vaccines per week, and is building the capacity to administer 4 million vaccines weekly by the end of April,” a state news release explained.
San Diego has seen firsthand the struggle to fill demand for vaccine appointments: throughout the county, local capacity to give out doses with super stations and smaller community sites has vastly outpaced the region’s supply of shots, frustrating eligible residents looking for appointments.
In Thursday’s announcement, the state acknowledged that getting everyone who wants a shot vaccinated will take time once restrictions are lifted: “Even with expanded vaccine supplies, it is expected to take several months for willing Californians to be vaccinated.”
But Newsom voiced confidence that enough help was on the way in the coming weeks enough to justify such a significant increase in the number of eligible residents.
“With vaccine supply increasing and by expanding eligibility to more Californians, the light at the end of the tunnel continues to get brighter. We remain focused on equity as we extend vaccine eligibility,” the governor said in a statement.
“This is possible thanks to the leadership of the Biden-Harris Administration and the countless public health officials across the state who have stepped up to get shots into arms.”
Newsom emphasized that the new eligibility rules will go hand-in-hand with programs aimed at vaccinating the most vulnerable communities around the state, including single-use codes that give targeted access to hard-hit zip codes, special programs through neighborhood organizations, union partnerships and outreach to agricultural workers.
In another concession to hard-hit areas, family members who attend vaccine appointments with eligible residents from certain neighborhoods can also receive the shot “no questions asked,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said.
The state health department says that will apply only in areas in the bottom half of the California Healthy Places Index, and providers will have flexibility to decide whether they have enough doses to accommodate those additional people. As the San Diego Union-Tribune reports, it remains unclear if any local vaccine providers plan to offer shots to family members.
Newsom acknowledged that he will be included in the new eligibility tier starting April 1. He said he’ll get, “the best dose — which is the next dose available.”