County leaders announced Wednesday that employees in schools, education and childcare; non-medical emergency responders and workers in the food and agriculture sectors -- are eligible for vaccinations beginning on Saturday.
San Diego County Board of Supervisors chair Nathan Fletcher made the announcement regarding members of Tier 2 in Phase 1B of the vaccine schedule --in the afternoon at the weekly county coronavirus briefing.
Fletcher said the fact that nearly 70% of seniors, as well as residents of long-term skilled nursing facilities have already received their shots. As a result, he said, the resulting abundance of available vaccine appointments prompted the move.
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“We begin to see some slack in the first-dose appointment utilization by our seniors, and so we are prepared to start this weekend -- this Saturday -- to open up vaccinations to the expanded group," Fletcher said.
About a half-million county residents would newly be available for the shots as a result of the decision, according to officials. To date, more than 783,000 vaccine doses have been administered in San Diego County.
The news comes on the day the county reported 658 new cases of the coronavirus, a total of 258,463 since the pandemic first began nearly a year ago in San Diego.
Officials are urging resident to remain patient, since the expansion of the vaccine pool is likely to create strain on both the system to make appointments as well as on the sites that have been set up around the county to administer the shots.
Fletcher said officials were creating a "closed" system with the county office of education to get K-12 school personnel their appointments, with 20% -- not 10%, as was previously reported -- of all shots aside, dedicated for educators and staffers.
Appointments would be set up through schools, not via the county or the state's MyTurn online vaccine-appointment scheduler. He also said that priority would be given to workers at schools in the communities that are being the hardest hit by COVID-19.
Other education-sector workers, including those employed at colleges and in childcare, will need to schedule appointments through the county or MyTurn. The same is true for farm and grocery store workers and other members of the food and agriculture sectors.
Scripps Health has volunteered to vaccinate law-enforcement personnel -- including police -- and will be working with departments around the county to schedule shots for them, in some cases as early as Saturday.
There's no date on the schedule yet for when members of Tier 2 of Phase 1B -- including people working in transportation and logistics; industrial, commercial, residential and sheltering facilities and services; and critical manufacturing -- will be eligible for their shots. Also in this tier are people employed in congregant settings, including employees working with the incarcerated and homeless.