Californians 65 and older are now allowed to get the coronavirus vaccine.
It’s a major expansion of who can get vaccinated, but there remains an open question about whether everyone who wants the vaccine can get it, especially right away.
Here is what we know:
Q: What do the changes mean?
Until now, vaccines had been reserved mostly for front-line health care workers and employees and residents of long-term care facilities. But now anyone 65 and over can also get in line for vaccines.
The move comes a day after the issuing of federal guidelines that call for those 65 and older to qualify for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.
California said it was setting up a notification system that would tell people when they would become eligible to get the vaccine.
Q: How is California ramping up to give out vaccines?
California officials have struggled thus far to distribute its allotment of vaccine doses. As of Monday, California had received more than 2.4 million doses of vaccine, but less than one-third had been administered. There has been lower-than-expected demand from the healthcare and nursing home workers who have highest priority to receive the vaccines, with up to 40% declining the initial opportunity to be vaccinated.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has vowed to improve the rollout, including handing out 1 million vaccines by the end of this week.
The city of Los Angeles is converting its massive coronavirus testing site at Dodger Stadium into a vaccination distribution center this week, with officials hoping to vaccinate up to 12,000 people a day when the site is fully operational. County officials also plan to end testing at the Veterans Affairs Lot 15 site near Jackie Robinson Stadium in West Los Angeles to shift personnel, equipment and other resources to vaccine distribution. Officials also plan to launch additional sites to vaccinate 500,000 healthcare workers by the end of the month.
In Orange County, Disneyland will be one of five large “point-of-dispensing” sites that collectively would be able to vaccinate thousands of residents each day.
Vaccines are also available at some retail pharmacies and medical offices.
Q: Will there be enough?
Probably not at the beginning because supplies are still limited and some of the vaccine sites are still ramping up.
Each health department in the state operates differently. Current instructions to check for eligibility and sign up for registration vary county by county. Those eligible are advised to contact their medical providers and to check their county’s public health department’s website for vaccine information. It might take a bit of time before counties update their websites with the state’s new eligibility rules.
Officials stress that everyone should check with their doctor or healthcare professional before getting a vaccine.
Q: Is there a cost?
COVID-19 vaccines are free, according to the California Department of Public Health. L.A. County officials added: “Your doctor or pharmacy may charge a fee for giving the vaccine, but it should be covered by public and private insurance companies. People without health insurance can get COVID-19 vaccines at no cost. There are no out-of-pocket payments.”
Q: What to watch out for?
Officials say the vaccine is safe. But they urge to be on the lookout for scams.
Here some red flag warnings issued by L.A. County:
• Someone offers to move you into an earlier group to get the vaccine for a fee.
• Someone tries to sell you a place on a COVID vaccine waiting list. There is no “vaccine waiting list.”
• Someone on the street, online, on social media or knocking on your door tries to sell you a shot of vaccine.
•You get calls, texts, or emails about the vaccine. The caller asks for your personal or financial information. It can be your Social Security, bank account or credit card number. Never share these numbers or other personal information with an unknown caller or in a text or email.
• You see ads for fake vaccines or “miracle cures” using vitamins or other dietary supplements. Scammers promote these even though they have not been proven to work. The FDA has issued warning letters to many companies for selling products that claim to prevent, treat or cure COVID-19.
Source County of L.A.
Q: Who will be next on the vaccine list?
Some of those who would be at the top of the line include, in phases as outlined by the state:
- Those at risk of exposure at work in the following sectors: education, childcare, emergency services, and food and agriculture
- Those at risk of exposure at work in the following sectors: transportation and logistics; industrial, commercial, residential, and sheltering facilities and services; critical manufacturing
- Congregate settings with outbreak risk: incarcerated and homeless people
- Individuals 50-64 years of age
- People 16-49 years of age who have an underlying health condition or disability that increases their risk of severe COVID-19
- Those at risk of exposure at work in the following sectors: water and wastewater; defense; energy; chemical and hazardous materials; communications and IT; financial services; government operations / community-based essential functions
Source: California Dept. of Public Health