All Californians age 16 and older will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccines beginning April 15, the state announced Thursday.
Additionally, Santa Barbara County opened eligibility to all residents age 50 and older for mass vaccination clinics run by Public Health next week in Lompoc.
On April 1, next Thursday, more than 50 residents will be able to book appointments at any participating pharmacy, hospital, clinic or other vaccine provider statewide.
“It will still take months for all Californians who want to get vaccinated, but millions get vaccinated every week,” the state said in a statement.
“Our ability to do more has always been limited by supply, manufactured supply,” Governor Gavin Newsom said at a news conference Thursday. “We are now confident that the manufactured supply will be available sooner than we had anticipated.”
Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency, said the state also made the decision because of new coronavirus outbreaks seen in other parts of the country and the world.
It is “a variant vaccine race and we must do it quickly,” he said.
The state wants to remove access barriers for vaccination, including documentation, so it decided to allow self-certification for people with medical conditions, he said.
People in that category don’t need a doctor’s note or other documents, and can sign something stating that they have a qualifying high-risk medical condition.
Santa Barbara County is still vaccinating the 65+ age group 16-64 with high-risk medical conditions, in addition to essential workers, including healthcare workers, education and child care workers, food and agriculture workers, and emergency services workers. The 50+ age group is eligible for the county-run clinic Sunday through Saturday, and then next Thursday will be eligible for appointments with all vaccine providers.
Other counties, including San Luis Obispo County, have already expanded eligibility for people age 50 and older.
The appointments have been in high demand locally, so the county has yet to open them to additional groups, according to public health officials.
The county has distributed 142,441 doses of vaccine as of Sunday and 11% of county residents are fully vaccinated.
April 1 is when Santa Barbara County officially enters the statewide Blue Shield system, which will centralize immunization appointments through the MyTurn website at https://myturn.ca.gov/.
Each pharmacy, hospital and clinic has a different registration platform at this time, “so by the end of the month, MyTurn is that platform that the entire state of California will use to register or make an appointment for vaccination,” Public Health Said the director Van Do-Reynoso during a town hall meeting on Tuesday.
County Executive Director Mona Miyasato signed the MOU with the state for the Blue Shield system last week, it added.
Some providers, including Cottage Hospital and Sansum Clinic, have already started using the system concurrently with their independent registration systems.
County leaders have continuously said they expect the limited dose supply to increase, with weekly totals showing higher deliveries and distribution in recent weeks.
When asked why other counties have been vaccinating more than 50 residents while Santa Barbara County is still limited to more than 65, Do-Reynoso said Tuesday:
“When a county has exhausted the number of people who are interested in getting a vaccine and have the same supply, then they can have that policy change. So as long as the county can attest that they’ve done everything they can, they’ve vaccinated everyone who’s eligible, 65 and older, with comorbidities and all, and they still have room, they can go up to 50 ”.
“Unfortunately we don’t have enough vaccines even though we are seeing a huge and significant increase, we are still 65 years old and we still have people in their 80s who want a vaccine but have not been able to get an appointment, and we have other priority groups that need one vaccine, but they’ve had a chance, so we want to comply with state guidelines and make sure those priority groups get vaccinated first before they hit 50. “
On Thursday, during an interview with KEYT, Van Do-Reynoso agreed that the process of checking multiple websites for vaccination appointments compared the process to getting a ticket to ‘Hamilton’ or a concert.
That is expected to change as the supply increases, and thousands of additional doses will be distributed at mass vaccination clinics starting Sunday, he said.
Appointments are available for the first clinic, in Lompoc, by calling the 2-1-1 call center from 9 am to 5 pm daily or by registering through the county website: https://publichealthsbc.org/vaccine /