Beginning March 15, health care providers “may use their clinical judgement” to give COVID-19 vaccines to California residents aged 16 to 64 with certain health conditions and disabilities, the state’s health department told providers in a bulletin Friday.
The health conditions outlined by the California Department of Public Health for vaccine eligibility are:
- 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%
Also, according to the state, people with developmental or other high-risk disabilities can get vaccinated if:
- They’re likely to develop severe life-threatening illness or death from COVID-19 infection
- Getting COVID-19 will limit the person’s ability to receive ongoing care or services vital to their well-being and survival
- Getting adequate and timely COVID-19 care will be particularly challenging as a result of the individual’s disability
The state’s bulletin says the list of eligible conditions is subject to change.
Those with disabilities will be able to get the doses at mass vaccine sites and other providers come March 15, but the state is still working to determine how their health conditions will be verified, or what documentation will be required, the state’s Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said in a media briefing.
Between 4 to 6 million Californians will be eligible to get the vaccine under the categories listed, which means between 17 and 19 million people will be eligible for a shot next month, according to Ghaly.
Currently, who’s being vaccinated varies by county, but generally, health care workers, people 65 and older and those in assisted living facilities are being vaccinated in the current phase.
Even with the current limits on who can get the vaccine, supplies are scarce in California and appointments can be hard to find.
In Los Angeles, city-operated sites ran out of doses and temporarily closed Friday, during the same week the county announced more essential workers including law enforcement, educators and food workers will soon be eligible for a shot in the coming weeks.
Ghaly said the hope is that supplies increase.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Jan. 25 announced that the state would move to age-based eligibility after shots are received by health care workers, those over 65, and people working in education, child care, emergency services and food and agriculture.
The announcement was met with confusion and criticism from disability advocates who feared at-risk groups will be left out as California shifts vaccine priority.
Because of the supply issues, it remains unclear when the state will transition to the age-based vaccine plan, according to Ghaly.
He said adding the high-risk patients to the eligibility groups gives providers the “flexibility” to begin vaccinating them next month as part of the current vaccine distribution structure.
“At some period in the future, as the state has laid out before, we will go into the next phase of eligible population, which may be age based,” he added.