As the state works to speed up delivery of the coronavirus vaccine, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that California will change its system for who is given vaccine priority, a shift that will eliminate job categories as a factor in determining the order of when people are eligible for the vaccination.
Currently, some essential workers, including farmworkers, teachers and health care staff can receive the vaccine, as well as people over 65.
But three-quarters of the state’s deaths from COVID-19 have occurred among older Californians, and that’s who the state is planning to focus on for vaccinations.
"You'll hear a lot more about a strategy to transition to an age-based eligibility, which will allow us to scale up much more quickly and get vaccines to impacted communities much more expeditiously," Newsom teased at his Monday briefing, where the big news was that California was lifting its stay-at-home order.
Darrel Ng, a spokesperson for the governor's Vaccine Task Force, confirmed that the state is eliminating the job-based eligibility categories in phases subsequent to 1A, in favor of an age-based system.
Ng wrote in an email that the change is being made "to reduce public confusion, make it easier on providers (who soon won’t have to consider occupation) and speed vaccine administration."
Ng wrote that the change will not eliminate equity-based considerations: "We can achieve that by allocating vaccines to communities that have been hit hardest by covid. One way to do that would be to send more vaccines to FQHCs [Federally Qualified Heath Centers] to ensure access and give them a better chance at availability while our supply remains limited."
State epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan said last week that given the limits on available doses, just vaccinating Californians over 65 could take until June.
While details of the state’s strategy aren’t out yet, the Service Employees International Union was critical, saying about 150,000 of the workers it represents have been deemed essential to stay on the job during the pandemic. But they may be vaccinated later if the state prioritizes age over job category.
More details about the plan are expected from California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly today at noon.