(KION) Officials with several California counties, including Santa Cruz and San Benito, say that because the supply of COVID-19 vaccines is limited, they have decided to focus on vaccinating older adults.
They said they will provide vaccines to residents aged 65 and older as quickly as possible because of their vulnerability.
“Two-thirds of all COVID-19 deaths in San Benito County are among residents age 75 or older,” said Dr. David Ghilarducci, San Benito County’s Public Health Officer. “A vaccine offered to a resident above age 75 is 300 times more likely to save a life than a vaccine offered to someone under the age of 50.”
Santa Cruz County reports that 90% of all COVID-19 related deaths there are among residents aged 65 and older.
Officials said California received a smaller supply of vaccines this week, and because of that, allocations for local health jurisdictions are smaller compared to previous shipments. The counties said that at this rate, it will take several weeks to administer first doses to older adults who want one.
“There is an imbalance of supply, demand and expectation,” said Dr. Gail Newel, Santa Cruz County Health Officer. “The demand for vaccine is high, which is good for the long-term health of our community, but the expectation that vaccines will be provided right now far outweighs the number of doses we’ve been given. The infrastructure for giving the vaccine is ready. We just need the supply.”
Officials said the need for second doses also limits the number of people who can receive a first dose each week. To improve availability, the CDC updated its vaccine guidance to allow second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to be administered up to six weeks after the first dose if it cannot be scheduled in the recommended timeframe.
The county said most local health care workers and medical emergency responders have received at least the first dose of the vaccine.
San Benito County residents in Phase 1b of vaccine distribution can fill out a vaccination interest form online here to be added to a contact list. Santa Cruz County residents can learn more by visiting the Public Health website here or by calling 831-454-4242 Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Phase 1B Tier 1 includes people aged 65 and older and people working in education and childcare, emergency services and food and agriculture.