BERKELEY (KPIX) — During a primetime address Thursday night, President Joe Biden announced a plan to ask state health departments to open COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to all Americans over the age of 18. Bay Area public health experts say it’s going to be a massive logistical challenge but it is possible.
Experts say it’s important to keep in mind how far we’ve come in one year. It was exactly one year ago when the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic.READ MORE: Tsunami Alert Forces Daylong Evacuation of Berkeley Marina
“One year ago today. That was the last day I was in my office at UC Berkeley. I haven’t been back since. It almost brings tears to my eyes to think of where we are now,” said UC Berkeley public health professor and infectious disease specialist, Dr. John Swartzberg.
Dr. Swartzberg says that at the start of the pandemic he never could have imagined it would be possible to even have even one vaccine developed by this point, let alone be talking about vaccinating the majority of Americans by summer.
“We could be approaching, if not at community immunity — sometimes called herd immunity,” Dr. Swartzberg said, adding that the biggest challenge to overcome in reaching the president’s goal is logistics.
“A lot of things are going to have to be aligned and work just right for this to happen. The sites, the people to administer it, the distribution,” Dr. Swartzberg said.READ MORE: Pacific Tsunami Update: Waves Surge Onto Bay Area Beaches Following Huge Tonga Volcano Blast
One continuing problem has been vaccine supply but the Biden administration announced plans Thursday to deal with that as well by using the Defense Production Act to make more of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine which only requires one dose to provide immunity.
Experts also say that a lot can happen with COVID numbers before widespread vaccines become reality, perhaps another surge as young people travel for spring break.
“The question is not if we are going to have it but by how much and when we’ll see that happen,” said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease professor at UCSF. He says that, over spring break, students are likely to vacation in other states — some of which have no mask mandates — and they could end up coming home after being infected with one of the more contagious COVID variants.
“We know that it’s stickier, kind of like regular COVID, but regular COVID on steroids,” Dr. Chin-Hong said.MORE NEWS: Bengals Stop Late Raiders Rally; Vegas One and Done in Playoffs
Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statement Thursday night after the president’s address saying the state is fully on board with the idea of expanding vaccination eligibility and is waiting to find out details on how to implement the president’s plan.