California expanding vaccine eligibility to ages 16-64 with underlying health conditions

California is expanding the list of people eligible for coronavirus vaccine by another 4 to 6 million people.

State Health Director Dr. Mark Ghaly said Friday that starting March 15 people between ages 16-64 who are severely disabled, and those with health conditions that put them at high risk can get in line for shots.

Among those included are people with certain cancer, heart, lung and kidney conditions, as well as pregnant women, those with Down syndrome, organ transplant recipients and the severely obese.

California has been plagued by vaccine shortages and Ghaly acknowledged he's not sure how long it will take for the federal supply of shots to meet demand.

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The state's memo says providers can use their judgment "to vaccinate individuals age 16-64 who are deemed to be at the very highest risk for morbidity and mortality from COVID-19 as a direct result of" a series of various medical conditions.

This represents a significant expansion of the state's population that is eligible for vaccine. Currently eligibility is limited to people 65 and over, health-care workers and residents and staff at long-term nursing facilities.


It comes at a time when vaccine supply is very limited throughout the state. In Los Angeles County, for example, next week a majority of vaccination sites will be limited to providing second doses and not first doses of vaccine.

Los Angeles County is receiving an average of about 200,000 doses of vaccine a week, which is far short of the capacity of the county's various sites to vaccinate 600,000 per week, county health officials say.

If vaccine eligibility is expanded without additional supply, officials say it will be that much harder to keep up with demand.

"We definitely will need a greater supply of vaccine," said Dr. Paul Simon, chief science officer for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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