State to expand COVID vaccines to those with high-risk health conditions

In a move that will vastly expand the number of people eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations, state health officials said today that as of March 15, shots can be administered to people 16 and older suffering from medical conditions or developmental disabilities that make them susceptible to severe illness or death from the virus.

The move comes amid continued shortages in vaccine supply, but follows mounting pressure to make the shots available to people most at risk of dying or falling seriously ill if they contract the virus.

According to a bulletin sent to providers across the state, the California Department of Public Health advised that vaccinations can be made to people between ages 16 and 64 who suffer from:

  • cancer
  • chronic kidney disease
  • chronic pulmonary disease
  • Down syndrome
  • weakened immune system from solid organ transplant
  • pregnancy
  • sickle cell disease
  • heart conditions
  • severe obesity
  • type 2 diabetes

Also becoming available for vaccines will be anyone 16 or over who suffers from a “developmental or other severe high-risk disability” that leaves the person susceptible to serious illness or death from COVID; if acquiring COVID will limit the person’s ability to receiving necessary ongoing care or services; or if the disability would hamper the person’s ability to be treated for COVID.

This will increase the number of eligible people by about 4 to 6 million.

The state already allows vaccinations for anyone aged 65 or over regardless of health condition. When the new eligibility takes effect March 15, the number of Californians overall who will be eligible to receive shots under existing guidelines will increase to as many as 19 million.

California has been plagued by vaccine shortages and State Health Director Dr. Mark Ghaly acknowledged he’s not sure how long it will take for the federal supply of shots to meet demand.

To date, just over 5 million doses have been administered across California. The current vaccines require each person to receive two doses, spaced three to four weeks apart.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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