SANTA CLARA (KPIX) — Gov. Newsom laid out a timeline Friday afternoon for when all California residents over age 16 could be eligible for a COVID vaccine. He said the goal is to move to open eligibility in five and a half weeks.
The governor also acknowledged the biggest hurdle in meeting that goal will be vaccine supply.
An additional four to six million California residents with underlying health conditions became eligible to get a shot on March 15 and already there are supply issues.
Santa Clara County announced it would have to reschedule more than 8,700 second-dose appointments because the county simply doesn’t have enough supply.
“Everywhere in this state, people are demanding more vaccines and our only constraint is manufactured supply,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said at a press conference in San Francisco Friday afternoon. He said the hope is within the next month and a half, the state will have enough vaccine supply to open eligibility to any resident over the age of 16. That would add an additional 32 million eligible recipients statewide.
Some local leaders question whether California’s vaccine supply will actually be able to keep up with that level of demand.
“We’ve told people that if you’re of a certain age or you have a certain job, we are going to have vaccines available for you and we don’t,” said Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors president Cindy Chavez.
Chavez says the county is struggling with supply issues, like the one impacting those 8,700 Kaiser patients this week. Just this week the county had 20,000 Kaiser patients make appointments at county vaccination sites. Chavez said the county did not have enough vaccine supply for all of those patients and told 8,700 of them they had to go back to Kaiser for their second shots. Kaiser gets its own allocation of vaccine separate from that given to Santa Clara County.
Chavez says effectively doing away with the current tier system — based on age, occupation and underlying risk factors — would open eligibility to a total of 1.6 million county residents. So far, almost 500,000 have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 15 percent of the county’s total eligible population is fully vaccinated.
Chavez says, at this point, the county is ready now to open eligibility to all residents over the age of 16 so long as there is enough supply.
“We have the capacity today — just the county, not with our medical partners — we can vaccinate 30,000 people a day. We just need those vaccines,” Chavez said.
Gov. Newsom said the supply should be able to keep up with demand to reach the goal of open eligibility in five and half weeks. That echoes President Biden saying he intends to open eligibility to all Americans by May 1 and has authorized using the Defense Production Act to speed up manufacturing of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
“Supply will exponentially increase so, within a few weeks, these issues will substantively be addressed,” Gov. Newsom said.
Representatives with California’s Department of Public Health told KPIX Friday night they cannot elaborate any further on future vaccine eligibility plans beyond the governor’s remarks.