California to Reserve 40% of Vaccine Doses for Low-Income Areas

Ken Towns receives a first dose of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine from UC Davis Health on Jan. 12, 2021, in Sacramento, Calif. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, Pool)

(CN) — California will begin reserving 40% of available Covid-19 vaccines for those living in the state’s low-income communities and ease restrictions for businesses to reopen, state officials announced Wednesday evening.

The new distribution plan will reach about 8 million eligible people across 400 ZIP codes, many of which are located in the Central Valley and Los Angeles County. Officials based the decision on those deemed most vulnerable, determined by income, housing status and education.

State Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly announced the plan along with easing of criteria to reopen non-essential businesses.

“We believe that we can make deep progress by allocating a significant amount of the state’s vaccine to these communities to ensure that we protect the most vulnerable and these communities at large, in a very deliberate and direct way,” Ghaly said.

The bottom 25% of California’s socioeconomic ladder make up 40% of the state’s coronavirus cases, according to state officials.

After the state has given out 4 million vaccine doses in those vulnerable areas, it will begin to ease restrictions on counties in order to reopen schools and businesses. Roughly 1.6 million doses have already been administered and officials say they should reach 2 million doses soon. 

“The thinking is that with more Californians especially the most vulnerable Californians vaccinated, that essentially will take a higher level of cases to really trigger widespread transmission across the state,” Ghaly said.

Currently a county has to pass several metrics to move from the most restrictive tier, which includes only having 7 new infections per 100,000 people a day. Under the new plan, that would change to 10 new infections.

State officials have struggled to find equity in distributing the vaccine. Following a botched rollout, Governor Gavin Newsom and state health officials turned to private health companies to help in the distribution effort.

“This additional protection of vaccinations allows us to have some additional cases,” Ghaly said. “We are more confident that even with some transmission, the most vulnerable are protected and won’t likely be getting so sick that hospitals are not able to deliver high quality care for all those in need.”

Ghaly said the state will continue to dedicate 10% of the state’s vaccines for educators.

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