All Californians 16 and older will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations starting April 15, the state announced Thursday.
In addition, next week in Lompoc, Santa Barbara County made all residents 50 and older eligible for mass vaccination clinics run by public health.
On April 1, this Thursday, more than 50 residents can book appointments at any participating pharmacy, hospital, clinic, or other vaccine provider in the state.
“It will take months to get every Californian who wants to get vaccinated, but millions of people are vaccinated every week,” the state said in a statement.
“Our ability to do more has always been limited by the supply, the supply produced,” Gavin Newsom said in a press conference on Thursday. “We are now confident that the stock produced will be available sooner than we expected.”
Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of California’s Health & Human Services Agency, said the state has also made the decision due to new spikes in the coronavirus in other parts of the country and the world.
It is “a race of vaccines against variants and we have to do this quickly,” he said.
The state wants to remove barriers to vaccination entry, including documentation, which is why it decided to allow self-declaration for people with medical conditions, he said.
People in that category don’t need a doctor’s note or other documents and can sign something stating they have a high-risk medical condition that qualifies.
Santa Barbara County continues to vaccinate those over 65, ages 16-64 with high-risk medical conditions, plus essential workers, including health workers, education and childcare workers, food and agricultural workers, and relief workers. The group of more than 50 qualify for the county-run clinic Sunday through Saturday, and this Thursday is eligible for appointments at all vaccine providers.
Other counties, including San Luis Obispo County, have already extended eligibility to people over 50.
Appointments are in high demand locally, which is why the province has not yet opened them to additional groups, according to public health officials.
The province has distributed 142,441 doses of vaccine as of Sunday, and 11% of the province’s residents have been fully vaccinated.
On April 1, Santa Barbara County officially joins the statewide Blue Shield system, which will centralize vaccination appointments through the MyTurn website at https://myturn.ca.gov/.
Every pharmacy, hospital and clinic currently has a different registration platform, “so by the end of the month, MyTurn is that platform that the entire state of California will use to register or schedule an appointment for vaccination.” That said director Van Do-Reynoso Tuesday during a town hall meeting.
County Executive Officer Mona Miyasato last week signed the Memorandum of Understanding with the state for the Blue Shield system, she added.
Some providers, including Cottage Hospital and Sansum Clinic, are already using the system in parallel with their independent registration systems.
County leaders have continuously said they expect the limited supply of doses to increase, with weekly totals showing higher deliveries and distribution in recent weeks.
Asked why other counties have vaccinated more than 50 residents, while Santa Barbara County is still limited to people over 65, Do-Reynoso said Tuesday:
“If a province has exhausted the number of people interested in getting a vaccine and they have the same supply, then they can undergo that policy change. So as long as the county can confirm that they’ve done their best, they’ve vaccinated everyone who qualifies for it, 65 and over and comorbid and all and still have room, they can reach into the 50s. “
“Unfortunately we don’t have enough vaccines, even though we are seeing a huge, significant increase, we still have 65 year olds and we still have 80 year olds who want a vaccine but have not been able to make an appointment, and we have other priority groups who need a vaccine but still had a chance, so we want to stick to state guidelines and make sure those priority groups get vaccinated first before we hit the 50s. “
On Thursday, during an interview with KEYT, Van Do-Reynoso agreed that the process of checking multiple websites for vaccination appointments compared the process to getting a ticket to ‘Hamilton’ or a concert.
That’s expected to change as the supply increases, and thousands more doses will be distributed in mass vaccination clinics starting Sunday, she said.
Appointments are available for the first clinic, in Lompoc, by calling the 2-1-1 call center daily from 9am to 5pm or by registering through the county website: https://publichealthsbc.org/vaccine/