In an effort to administer the vaccine to people most at risk for complications from the coronavirus, San Diego County has now approved all residents 75 and older for vaccinations.
Officials said the move was prompted by a slowdown at COVID-19 vaccination sites as well.
“We took this action today to add individuals 75 years of age and older because they are at the greatest risk,” said Dr. Wilma J. Wooten, San Diego's county public health officer.
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While the county last week approved medical sites to begin vaccinating people 65 and older following a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control, up until now the county itself has not widened the pool past Tier 1A which is mostly residents of assisted-care facilities and health care workers.
Some between the ages of 65 and 75 were vaccinated at San Diego's downtown "super station" Monday, but a representative from UC San Diego Health, which staffs the downtown site, said availability was only opened to the age group for one day due to low appointment volume.
So far, only UC San Diego Health and Scripps Health have expanded in-network vaccination to patients 65 and older.
Scripps said it is using vaccine stock leftover from its initial batch allotted for its own health care workers, and said it hasn't received any additional vaccines from the government to use on the 65-and-older population.
Officials stressed that appointments are required at the county sites, and that anyone arriving without an appointment would be turned away.
The county has also been getting help from Cal Fire EMT's and paramedics who have administering vaccines at skilled nursing facilities.
Beginning next week, anybody 65 and above will be able to get the shot, Wooten said on Monday in a news release.
“It remains our intention to expand vaccines to those 65 and older the week of Jan. 25, contingent of vaccine availability.”
Meanwhile, at UC San Diego Health, officials are concerned about phone lines being overwhelmed and are urging patients to not call health care providers directly and instead are asking them to wait to be contacted.
Patients who are at severe risk for COVID-19 infection and have co-morbidities are being prioritized by UCSD, officials said. Those who are eligible "will receive a direct invitation to be vaccinated through their electronic medical record or a direct call from their health care provider."
Last Wednesday, state public health officials followed the CDC guidance by announcing that people 65 and older could now get the vaccine, joining the already eligible next tier, of emergency workers, teachers, childcare providers and food and agriculture workers clustered in Tier 1B. The decision perplexed some officials, who said they don’t even have enough doses to vaccinate those in Tier 1A.
San Diego has about 620,000 health care workers and long-term health care facility residents in Tier 1A. Making people 65 and older eligible for the vaccine adds another 500,000 people to the mix.
“It’s great that the state said, ‘Hey, folks 65 and older are eligible to get vaccines,’ but that requires counties to actually have the vaccines,” county Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said.
California has received more than 2.4 million vaccine doses as of last Monday, but only a third had been injected. Local governments have set up massive vaccine distribution sites in the hopes they can convince state and federal officials to send them more doses. San Diego opened a so-called super center last week in the Tailgate Park parking lot outside of Petco Park, where thousands have gotten shots. Officials hope to ramp up to 5,000 vaccinations a day at that location. On Saturday, 4,345 were given the shot there, authorities said.
People with appointments at Tailgate Park were met with long lines, whether they were on foot or in a vehicle -- in fact, by late afternoon, the lines snaked through city streets all the way back to a nearby freeway offramp. And NBC 7 spoke with one person in line who was, in fact, 66 years old, who said that, despite their age, they had been checked in and were slated to get their shot.