BAKERSFIELD — Gov. Gavin Newsom has promised that eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine will open to everyone 16 years and older starting April 15 thanks to an expected increase in supply.
Newsom made the announcement in a news release Thursday, March 18. On April 1, individuals 50 years and older will be eligible, and will expand to everyone over 16 years old.
“With vaccine supply increasing and by expanding eligibility to more Californians, the light at the end of the tunnel continues to get brighter,” Newsom said in his news release. “We remain focused on equity as we extend vaccine eligibility to those older than 50 starting April 1, and those older then 16 starting April 15. 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.”
According to the news release, California expects to receive approximately 2.5 million first and second doses per week in the first part of April and 3 million doses in the second half. This will be a boost from the approximately 1.8 million doses per week.
Vaccine eligibility has currently been limited to select groups, including seniors 65 years and older, those with severe medical complications, front line emergency workers, educators, farm workers, patients and workers in skilled nursing facilities, among others.
Scheduled vaccinations have been difficult to obtain on occasion, with reports of shortages.
Kern County Public Health Services urged residents that are currently eligible to receive a vaccination to schedule ahead of April 1 to ensure they could get a shot.
“Our goal is to remove any barriers our residents may face as they seek to schedule their COVID-19 vaccination appointments,” Kern County Public Health Director Brynn Carrigan stated in the county news release. “Our call center is equipped with staff who are knowledgeable and eager to assist our community.”
Kern County has been ramping up its COVID-19 vaccination efforts over the last month, from establishing a mass vaccination site at the Kern County Fair Grounds in Bakersfield to partnering with other agencies. Bakersfield has already held two drive-through clinics and California State University Bakersfield recently opened a vaccination hub that could administer as many as 38,000 doses a week.
Three state-sponsored sites have also been established in Rosamond, Arvin and Wasco.
"Bottom line, the faster we get people vaccinated, the more lives we save and the more hospital capacity we preserve," Supervisor Mike Maggard said in a statement to The Bakersfield Californian. "Our vaccine allotment this week is only 17,000, where four weeks ago we received 30,000. Any news that signals more vaccinations are on their way to Kern County is welcome news."
According to Second District Supervisor Zack Scrivner, whose district includes California City, Mojave, Boron and Rosamond, Kern County originally was only receiving 8,000 vaccine doses a week. Scrivner sits on the county’s ad-hoc COVID-19 response committee along with Maggard.
During a meeting with state officials, Scrivner noted the county would only focus on inoculating people 65 years and older. A week later, Kern’s vaccine allocation went up to its current allocation.
The board of supervisors in February formed a partnership with Adventist Health Tehachapi Valley to provide mobile clinics to East Kern communities of Rosamond, California City, Boron and Mojave capable of delivering as many 110 vaccines each. The vaccines come from Adventist Health’s allotted supply, not Kern County.
“As of now, we have administered around 4,000 vaccines in the East Kern area through the mobile clinic,” Scrivner said during a virtual meeting with the California City Chamber of Commerce.
Despite any increase in vaccine allocation, Scrivner said it will be a long road before all Kern residents can be inoculated.
“It will still be probably be into the fall or even winter before we are able to vaccinate everyone who wants to be vaccinated,” Scrivner said. “That’s all contingent on how much vaccine supply we get.”
He added the the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, recently approved for emergency use, “has dramatically reduced our timeline because it’s only one dose,” but supply issues continue to be an issue.
The state’s expected increase in supply also means changes in its allocation methodology. Rather than basing allocation on a county’s population of residents 65 years or older and others who are eligible, the state will base supply on the county’s population of people 16 years and older.
Newsom’s office also continued its support to focus on the state’s poorer areas. Those areas, the governor’s office states, already receives double the amount of vaccines as other areas based on higher death rates.
Despite the possibility of increased vaccinations and the availability of three vaccines to inoculate against COVID-19, local and state public health officials are urging continued caution to prevent another surge in the virus that has already killed nearly 58,000 Californians since last March.
“We are even closer to putting this pandemic behind us with today’s announcement and with vaccine supplies expected to increase dramatically in the months ahead," said California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly. "However, we are not there yet. It will take time to vaccinate all eligible Californians. During this time, we must not let our guard down. It is important that we remain vigilant, continue to wear masks and follow public health guidance."
The state continues to regulate activities and what businesses can re-open for indoor service through its “Blueprint for a Safer Economy” roadmap on what businesses and sectors can re-open based on tiered system. Kern County recently entered into the red tier, one step up from the most restrictive purple tier after its metrics for COVID-19 cases improved dramatically.
Scrivner said Kern County has always maintained taken an educational approach with its residents and businesses when it comes to the state mandate, rather than shutting down businesses or issuing fines.
To register for a vaccine, people will need to register through the state’s MyTurn platform at myturn.ca.gov. For residents seeking assistance, the department pointed to the Public Health Call Center, which can be reached at 661-321-300 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Adventist Health’s mobile clinic is also coordinating vaccinations schedules; people can call 661-771-8400 to schedule for those eligible to receive it.
Bartz-Altadonna Clinic in California City has also started setting up vaccination schedules. People can call 661-874-4438 or find registration forms at https://bartz-altadonna-chc.org/covid-vaccines-reg-forms.
The severe health conditions eligible include:
· Cancer, current with weakened immune system
· Chronic kidney disease, stage 4 or above
· Chronic pulmonary disease, oxygen dependent
· Down syndrome
· Solid organ transplant, leading to a weakened immune system
· Sickle cell disease
·Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies (but not hypertension)
· Severe obesity (Body Mass Index ≥ 40 kg/m2)
· Type 2 diabetes mellitus with hemoglobin A1c level greater than 7.5%