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SAN DIEGO (CNS) – Hundreds of thousands of San Diegans become eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines Thursday when the state expands eligibility to everyone age 16 and over, while county public health officials reported 260 new infections and 25 additional deaths Wednesday.

Thursday’s expansion of eligibility will allow millions of Californians to get a shot, which could stretch already thin supplies. San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher once again urged patience from the public as more vaccines will be shipped to the county in coming weeks.

The county’s vaccine appointment system is now open for those who become eligible Thursday. For 16- and 17-year-olds, only the Pfizer vaccine is available. Fletcher said the website should check birthdates for those making appointments to ensure only the Pfizer is available for those teens.

“Like so many of you, I’ve waited my turn to be vaccinated,” he said.

Fletcher said he would get his shot Thursday from the Veterans Administration, while also noting the VA and Department of Defense would begin including vaccination numbers for the county’s daily statistics — something they had not been doing previously.

Wednesday’s statistics increased the region’s cumulative totals from throughout the pandemic to 273,968 infections and 3,648 fatalities.

Of the 25 deaths reported Wednesday, 21 occurred in December and January according to the county Health and Human Services Agency, which did an audit of deaths and death certificates during the height of the mid-winter peak of deaths and hospitalizations in the county.

Of the 16,297 test results reported Wednesday, 2% returned positive. The 14-day rolling average of positive tests is 1.9%.

More than 2.2 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been delivered to San Diego County, and 1,216,170 county residents — or 60.3% of the county’s goal of 75% of its eligible population — have received at least one dose. The state’s goal is to vaccinate 75% of people 16 and older to achieve so-called herd immunity — equating to around 2.02 million San Diego County residents.

The county reported a total of 757,355 people in the San Diego area — or 37.5% of that goal — are fully vaccinated. The numbers include both county residents and those who only work in the region.

Following federal guidance, San Diego County stopped administering Johnson & Johnson single-dose COVID-19 vaccines on Tuesday.

“The health and safety of San Diego County residents is our number one priority, and, in an abundance of caution, we are pausing use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine while state and national authorities thoroughly investigate these reports,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, San Diego County’s public health officer.

Earlier Tuesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration recommended states pause use of the one- dose vaccine after six women between the ages of 18 and 48 developed a “rare and severe” blood clot called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, according to a joint statement from the agencies. The women developed the clots six to 13 days after receiving a Johnson & Johnson vaccine. One of the women died.

Around 6.85 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been administered in the United States, including about 58,000 in San Diego County. No known severe adverse effects to the vaccine have been reported in the region.

Only around 2.9% of all vaccines administered have been from Johnson & Johnson.

Fletcher said the state was sending a “vaccination strike team” to assist with those populations now receiving two-dose vaccines.

“There has been minimal to no substantive effect,” on the county’s vaccine rollout due to the pause on Johnson & Johnson vaccine administration, he said.

The county has 11,000 doses on hand it was saving for hard-to-reach populations such as people experiencing homelessness, agricultural workers and homebound seniors. Wooten said Wednesday the county will keep those 11,000 doses and await further guidance from the company and the CDC, as they have around a three-month shelf life if kept refrigerated.

For San Diegans who got the vaccine more than a month ago, the risk is very low, officials said. For San Diegans who recently got the vaccine — within the last few weeks — they should be aware of any symptoms. People who develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath were urged to contact their health care provider and seek immediate medical treatment.

County vaccine appointments can be made online by clicking here.

Copyright 2021, City News Service, Inc.