The UC San Diego Health medical system is the first in the county to administer vaccinations to the expanded pool, officials said on Friday.
Up till now, facilities in San Diego-- many of which said earlier this week that they would follow state and CDC guidelines and would start giving the shots to residents 65 and older -- had limited giving doses to members of Phase 1A, who are mostly health care workers and residents in assisted-living facilities.
In fact, the county released a statement earlier the same day regarding some hospitals moving ahead: "San Diegans 65 years of age and older are the next priority group for COVID-19 vaccination. However, due to the limited supply of doses in the region, only a few health care providers have vaccine available for their patients in this group."
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UC San Diego health began vaccinating patients on Thursday.
"[The] goal is to vaccinate approximately 500 patients per day at UC San Diego Health facilities," UC San Diego Health said in a news release issued Friday afternoon. "This is in addition to the nearly 10,000 UC San Diego Health employees who have already received their first doses in Phase 1A."
Dalia Talamantez was one of the first in the 65-plus group of Phase 1B patients to get a shot.
“I’m getting vaccinated because I want to be protected from the virus," Talamantez is quoted in the news release sent out by UCSD Health. "I was inspired to get this vaccine because I have seen many relatives and friends impacted by this virus. So for me, it is absolutely wonderful and delightful that I was able to get it this soon.”
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."
UCSD Health officials, who are concerned about phone lines being overwhelmed, are urging patients to not call health care providers directly and instead are asking them to wait to be contacted.
The county also said on Friday that when it's ready to begin vaccinating the 65-plus pool, it would be making a variety of efforts to contact those who are eligible, including by posting information on coronavirus-sd.com/vaccine.
One reason the 65-plus patient pool has been elevated in priority is that its members are more likely to die from the illness. Another is general frustration over the slow rollout of the vaccine, prompting many states to open eligibility to the nation’s 54 million senior citizens.
On Wednesday, state public health officials followed federal 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 Phase 1B. The decision perplexed some officials, who said they don’t even have enough doses to vaccinate those in Phase 1A.
San Diego County, home to 3.3 million people, has received more than 241,000 doses and administered more than 92,000 of them — though the overall number is likely higher because vaccines are also being provided by the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments to the region’s large military presence.
San Diego has about 620,000 health care workers and long-term health care facility residents in Phase 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 Monday, but only a third of them have been used. Local governments, meanwhile, are moving quickly to 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 this week in the Tailgate Park parking lot outside of Petco Park, where thousands have gotten shots.