California state officials announced today that anyone over 50 will be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine on April 1, and all residents over 16 will be eligible on April 15. Plus, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced any family members taking eligible people to get their shots are also now eligible to get a shot at that time, with no questions asked.
The new rules will apply to all San Mateo County residents, but county officials say not to expect county-run sites to have enough doses to open their eligibility quite that wide at first.
County Health Public Information Officer Preston Merchant said due to continued constraints on supply coming to the county’s health department, county-run sites may not initially have appointments available to newly eligible groups. But Merchant said residents may be able to find appointments through their health care providers or at local sites supplied by the state or federal government, such as in-county pharmacies or nearby mass vaccination sites like the Oakland Coliseum.
In a statement released Wednesday, County Health Chief Louise Rogers said the county continues to have a low vaccine supply and no advanced notice of when vaccine doses will flow into the county. The county’s allocation has hovered around 20,000 doses per week. The consistently low numbers are due to a state policy directing 40 percent of vaccine supply to high-risk ZIP codes, none of which are in San Mateo County.
Rogers wrote that the state is expected to start providing three-week supply projects, which will aid county planning efforts. The county recently turned its focus on supplying 12 small community events, including the Our Lady of the Pillar Catholic Church vaccine site in Half Moon Bay, while taking its mass vaccination sites at the Events Center and San Francisco International Airport offline until supply increases substantially.
Rogers’ statement says that those mass sites will be reactivated if supply increases.
“Our work during the last several weeks to mobilize both targeted and large-scale vaccine efforts positions us well to scale up and achieve even greater reach more quickly — if there is more supply of the vaccine,” Rogers wrote.
The news comes as local health leaders, including Rogers, warn of a final surge in COVID-19 cases. Deputy Health Chief Srija Srinivasan said that new and future variants, which could be more transmissible, could cause an uptick in cases while not enough people are vaccinated to provide herd immunity.
With over 77 percent of those 65 and older and 82 percent of those 75 and older in the county now vaccinated, Rogers said even if a surge does materialize, she hopes the most vulnerable will be protected from the most severe effects of the disease, hospitalization and death.
“We do think there may be a surge,” Rogers said. “We don't see it in the data yet, but we know things can change quickly.”
On Tuesday, the county’s case rate was 4.4 cases per 100,000 residents, with an overall positivity rate of 0.9 percent. As of Thursday afternoon, 41 percent of county residents over 16 have received at least one dose of the vaccine. The majority of residents have been vaccinated through Kaiser Permanente, the county health department and Sutter Health.