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April 23, 2021

Vaccine eligibility to expand starting April 1

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY—All California adults age 50 and older will be eligible for a vaccine starting April 1, and everyone age 16 and older will be eligible starting April 15, the state announced Thursday.

The shift in eligibility comes as the state expects the supply of vaccines to significantly increase throughout the nation in coming weeks. Earlier this month, President Joe Biden said all U.S. adults should be made eligible for a vaccine no later than May 1.

Santa Cruz County health officials at a press conference Thursday said that projections show vaccine allocations to the California Department of Public Health will double by mid-April and triple by mid-June. It is still unknown if local allocations from the state will follow suit, says County Deputy Health Officer Dr. David Ghilarducci. This week, the county received about 5,000 doses, but it typically receives around 3,000—that does not include the doses obtained by health care providers such as Dignity Health, Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Health.

Even with that increase in supply, doses will continue to be scarce for some time because of the expanded eligibility, Ghilarducci said. The county is projecting that it will have offered every resident over 16 their first dose by mid-summer.

“We are concerned that with the expanded eligibility and not expansion in vaccine supply, it’s probably going to generate some frustration on people who are going to look for an appointment,” Ghilarducci said.

About 35% of county residents 16 and older have already received at least their first shot. That includes about a quarter of residents between the ages of 16-64, and 80% of residents 65 and older.

Health officials urged residents to sign up for an appointment through myturn.ca.gov.

County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel said “all systems are go” for the county to move from the red “substantial” tier to the less restrictive orange “moderate” tier of the state’s Covid-19 reopening plan on March 31. That jump would come one day before theme parks and outdoor live performances are allowed to welcome customers back with various capacity limits. Newel said the state will soon update those guidelines to give schools guidance of how to conduct graduations this summer.

But she continued to ask residents to be vigilant, as two unrelated cases of the B117 variant, known generally as the U.K. variant, were recently identified in local patients. Both have recovered, Newel said.

Vaccines currently authorized for emergency use have been shown to maintain effectiveness against variants. In January, experts in the U.K. reported that this variant may be associated with an increased risk of death compared to other variant viruses, but more studies are needed to confirm this finding, according to the CDC.

“We can’t let our guard down over spring break,” Newel said. “We need to minimize mixing and avoid crowds.”

In Santa Cruz County, 200 people have died from Covid-19. There have been 15,258 known Covid-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, of which 202 are known active cases, according to information last updated Wednesday evening by county health officials.