Vaccine supply shrinks ahead of state’s 16+ expansion

Alameda County Fire Department employee Max Shih dispenses of a syringe after administering a Moderna COVID-19 vaccine during a distribution clinic at St. Rose hospital in Hayward on Jan. 27, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

Welcome to open season.

On Thursday, California will expand vaccine eligibility to everyone 16 and older — the same day the vast majority of counties will get the green light to resume indoor concerts, conferences, weddings and other gatherings under certain conditions.

But the promising news comes amid some not-so-promising numbers: The Golden State’s vaccine supply is set to shrink 15% this week and another 5% the week after, largely due to a manufacturing mixup that ruined 15 million doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Because some doses are reserved for Californians getting their second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, the number of available first shots will drop 33% this week and 4% the week after, even as millions more people become eligible, according to the state Department of Public Health.

And although California’s seven-day coronavirus positivity rate remains at a record low of 1.6%, cases are plateauing or even ticking up in some parts of the state, fueling fears that a fourth wave could be on the horizon. Napa County, for example, would likely have moved into a more restrictive tier this week had the state not recently loosened its reopening criteria as a result of administering 4 million doses in disadvantaged communities. San Francisco is also seeing a slight increase in hospitalizations, though they remain far lower than previous surge levels.

Vaccine supply is expected to ramp up again in a few weeks — a prerequisite, along with low hospitalization rates, for Gov. Gavin Newsom to meet his bold goal of reopening the state by June 15.

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Sunday, California had 3,600,178 confirmed cases (+0.1% from previous day) and 59,218 deaths (+0.3% from previous day), according to a CalMatters tracker.

California has administered 22,777,893 vaccine doses, and 27.1% of Californians are fully vaccinated.

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