Californians ages 50-64 rush to get vaccinated ahead of expansion

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Before California opens its coronavirus vaccination program to all adults on April 15, there will be a two-week window in which millions of people between the ages of 50 and 64 can receive the vaccine.

The launch for this age group, which will be eligible on Thursday, has prompted an increase in appointment requests and raised concerns about whether two weeks is enough to reach everyone when there is uncertainty about supply levels and lingering questions about accessibility. .

The California Department of Finance, which monitors population data, projects that there are 7.2 million people in the state between the ages of 50 and 64. Currently, only about 23% of Californians in that age group have received at least one dose of a vaccine. , depending on the state, compared to 37% of 18-49 year olds, likely due to their occupation or because they have qualifying health conditions.

“The two-week period is concerning given the challenges that persist with supply and access to technology,” Rafi Nazarians, AARP associate state director, told the Los Angeles Times. “We will continue to urge that Californians over 50 be given priority … just to make sure those most at risk can get vaccines.”

Dr. Paul Simon, chief scientific officer for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, estimated that between 800,000 and 1 million additional people in the county would be eligible as of April 1.

“There will probably be a rush. I want to make sure the public recognizes that there may be challenges in getting an appointment right away, ”he said during a briefing on Friday. “It just, again, reflects the limited supply of vaccines.”

California, which was initially slow to roll out vaccines but has increased vaccinations in recent weeks, expects to receive 2.5 million doses a week in the first half of the month and more than 3 million a week in the second, a huge jump from roughly 1.8 million doses a week currently.

The increased supply will help accommodate the large number of people, but Simon said it will take time for the county to work through its already long vaccination queue and accommodate those who will soon be eligible.

“Even with an increased supply of vaccines, we certainly cannot handle about a million people during that first week, given all the other groups that are also currently being vaccinated,” he said. “But I would expect that, over the next few weeks, demand will slow down a bit and things will open up, particularly as this vaccine supply continues to increase. So I urge people to be patient. “

The Nazarians said that many people over the age of 50 face mobility issues, language barriers and technology that can prevent them from getting an appointment and getting to a vaccination clinic. He said he will urge state officials to make sure they reach older adults, particularly people who are offline or confined to their homes.

In the meantime, access to get an appointment has been an ongoing challenge as more people compete for available spaces.

“I think it will be several weeks before I can find an appointment,” said Jeanette Ziolkowski, 63, of Los Angeles, adding that she doesn’t think there will be enough time for her cohort to get vaccinated before everyone is eligible in April. .

“Sixty-five years or more have been open since January, and I think it’s still a struggle for many in that group,” he said.

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