California will expand vaccine eligibility to everyone 16 and over next month

California is expanding its vaccine eligibility to anyone 50 and over starting in April and anyone 16 and over on April 15. Long Beach, however, will begin vaccinating people 50 and over immediately.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday that California expects to receive 2.5 million doses a week in the first half of April and more than 3 million a week in the second half of the month. That’s a big jump from the roughly 1.8 million doses a week the state is currently getting.

“In just a few weeks, there’ll be no rules, no limitations, as it relates to the ability to get a vaccine administered,” Newsom said at a news conference in Orange County. “This state is going to come roaring back.”

The move comes as some California counties have veered away from the state’s vaccine eligibility criteria by opening up the shots for people with a broader range of medical conditions and at younger ages than 65 and over or those with specific conditions required in most places.

Long Beach health officials said Thursday they’ll actually move faster than the state to vaccinate people 50 years or older. They’ll be eligible starting today, according to a city announcement.

Newsom said the state will continue to target underserved communities by working with labor groups to reach essential workers and letting health providers target vaccinations by ZIP code.

States have been opening up eligibility as vaccine supplies have increased. Florida announced Thursday it will open eligibility to anyone 18 and older on April 5, while New York has expanded eligibility to anyone 50 and up.

The broader qualification for eligibility also addresses California’s patchwork eligibility system in which some areas have gone beyond state criteria.

In some counties, people 50 and up were already eligible for shots. San Diego County has expanded the range of health conditions that qualify to include moderate to severe asthma, being overweight and having Type 1 diabetes, according to the county’s web site.

In neighboring Orange County, however, public health officials were told by the state not to add more health conditions to make more people eligible for shots, said Molly Nichelson, a county spokesperson.

Eyal Oren, associate professor of epidemiology at San Diego State University, said there have been a lot of changes in the vaccination system as supplies have increased.

“It’s a very quickly shifting landscape,” he said in an interview before the governor’s announcement Thursday. “It’s just moving fast and there’s a lot happening.”

Oren said he believes it’s important to prioritize people at greater risk from the virus to ensure they can get their shots quickly. But more vaccinations are also a good thing, he said.

“We’re in this race of trying to get more people immunity,” he said.

Editor’s note: This story was updated with more information from the city of Long Beach.

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