OAKLAND (CBS / AP) — California officials pushed the safety and efficacy of the new one-shot Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine on Thursday as the state looks ahead to drastically loosening restrictions that have altered life in the nation’s most populous state.

“The thing that came into my mind when that vaccine went into my arm was hugging my mom again. And I think that is something too many Californians have been without since this pandemic began,” said Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, California’s surgeon general, who is African American.

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California’s supply of the single-shot vaccine is limited for now but officials are eager to build confidence, particularly in minority communities.

California Department of Public Health Dr. Tomas Aragon receives the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine in Oakland on March 11, 2021. (California Office of Emergency Services / Twitter)

California Department of Public Health Dr. Tomas Aragon receives the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine in Oakland on March 11, 2021. (California Office of Emergency Services / Twitter)

Burke Harris was one of several Black officials and leaders who promoted the vaccine at a federally funded vaccination site in Oakland. She said her mother also received the J&J vaccine this week.

“The thing that came into my mind when that vaccine went into my arm was hugging my mom again,” Burke Harris said at a news conference.

Meanwhile in Los Angeles, Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s top health official, received the shot in Los Angeles, making a similar push.

Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is the third vaccine to receive emergency approval in the U.S. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines both require two shots, while J&J only requires one dose. Although public health officials say it provides strong immunity, some people have been hesitant, worrying that it is not as protective as the others.

State officials aimed to dispel that notion.

“The best vaccine is the first one that’s in your arm,” said Dr. Tomás Aragón, director of the California Department of Public Health.

State officials want the one-shot vaccine to help improve delivery to underserved communities, something the Coliseum has struggled with. The mega-site was picked specifically to reach people of color, but only 4% of the shots given here have gone to Black residents.

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“They are experimenting with different ways of reaching the community,” Aragón told KPIX 5. “I think what we’re gravitating to is working more closely with community-based organizations.”

Mobile sites have been roving East Bay communities, advertising almost entirely by word of mouth.

“Coming to them, and bringing the vaccination to them, I think has been super successful,” says Dr. Gerard Jenkins with Oakland’s Native American Health Center. “We’re really happy to do that and I hope that this serves as a model.”

There is a growing consensus that small and mobile is the answer to the equity challenge, not something on the scale of the coliseum.

“To just come to an open big site and say ‘hey, we have these vaccines, come on and get it,'” Dr. Donna White-Carey, an Oakland pediatrician, told KPIX 5. “That’s not the right approach.”

The state has tied its reopening plans to getting the most vulnerable residents vaccinated, particularly people in Black and Latino communities and in lower income neighborhoods.

The state uses a four-tiered, color-coded system to determine what businesses can open in a county; purple is the most restrictive, yellow the least. Under the system, counties will be eligible to move to less restrictive tiers once benchmarks are hit for vaccinating people in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods.

When officials established the system in August, Gov. Gavin Newsom said it was too soon to look ahead to a green tier that would signal “go back to the way things were.” But as vaccinations increase and cases, hospitalizations and deaths go down, officials are preparing to introduce one, though it’s not clear what restrictions would be in place.

The Democratic governor said Wednesday that officials are now working on setting up a green tier “and have been now for a number of months in anticipation of this bright light at the end of this tunnel,.”

Aragón, the public health director, said the state is considering when to end the current reopening blueprint. He said the state is likely to achieve herd immunity when about 75% of the population has been vaccinated, but he noted that could change as the virus mutates.

Almost half of the state’s 58 counties, including 7 out of 9 Bay Area counties, are out of the most restrictive purple tier. Major counties like Los Angeles and Orange are expected to soon move to the red tier, allowing limited indoor dining and the reopening of movie theaters and gyms.

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