State to offer broad access to COVID-19 vaccines in April; those 50 and older are eligible April 1

Vials at Pfizer’s Kalamazoo, Mich. facility on November 16, 2020. Pfizer's largest manufacturing site, the 1,300 acre facility produces active pharmaceutical ingredients (API), drug products (DP) and medical devices. (Photo courtesy of Pfizer)

California will open COVID-19 vaccine access to all residents age 16 and up on April 15 based on expected increases in the supply of vaccine doses, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday.

Vaccine doses will first become available statewide to residents age 50 and over on April 1, with eligibility opening for all residents 16 and up two weeks later.

According to Newsom’s office, the state expects to receive 2.5 million first and second vaccine doses per week in the first half of April. That will increase to 3 million doses per week in the second half of the month.

Alameda County health workers prepare syringes with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine during a distribution clinic at St. Rose hospital in Hayward on Jan. 27, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

Newsom credited President Joe Biden’s administration for the exponential rise in vaccine supply that has already enabled some states like Texas and Arizona to open vaccine access to all adults.

“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 a statement. “We remain focused on equity as we extend vaccine eligibility to those older than 50 starting April 1, and those older than 16 starting April 15.”

Newsom and state Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly cautioned that it will still take several months to vaccinate all residents who want to receive a dose.

The state will also continue to reserve 40 percent of the weekly vaccine shipments sent to local health departments and health care providers for the ZIP codes that have been hardest-hit by the pandemic.

“It will take time to vaccinate all eligible Californians. During this time, we must not let our guard down,” Ghaly said. “It is important that we remain vigilant, continue to wear masks and follow public health guidance.”

The state has already made vaccine doses available to all state residents age 65 and older, those with high-risk medical conditions, health care workers, nursing home residents and workers and those working in essential sectors like educations, law enforcement and food and agriculture.

The state’s guidance does not, however, ensure that all 58 of the state’s counties will immediately have enough vaccine doses to accommodate all residents 16 and older by April 15.

“We are excited to expand eligibility,” said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, Santa Clara County’s COVID-19 testing and vaccine officer. “That is why we have been scaling up capacity so rapidly — so that we can quickly vaccinate as many eligible people who live and work here as possible.”

“Currently, our challenge is not one of capacity or eligibility, but supply,” he said.

Meanwhile, Contra Costa and Solano counties have announced over the last two weeks that they would make vaccine doses available to all residents ages 50 and up.

California residents can contact their local health department for information on how to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine when they become eligible.

Residents can also use the state’s My Turn vaccine notification and scheduling tool HERE to sign up for a vaccination appointment when they are eligible.

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