As vaccine eligibility expands to millions on Monday, experts warn of COVID surge

Come Monday, March 15th, the COVID vaccine will be available to a new group: 16 to 64 years old with disabilities or qualifying health conditions. 

A relief for disability advocate, Nikki Brown-Booker. 

"The pandemic has been extremely difficult for people with disabilities," she says. 

An estimated 4.4 million people will be eligible and for those with disabilities the vaccine will allow them to safely interact with people they depend on. 

"A lot of people with disabilities are just scared to death about what would happen if they got sick," Brown-Booker says. 

As more Califorians become eligible to get vaccinated, a sign that the worst of the pandemic may be over, experts warn of a surge in COVID cases in the coming weeks. 

"People are mobile now, the weather is getting better, but most importantly we’re doing a very patchwork thing all around the country," says UCSF Infectious Disease Expert, Dr. Peter Chin-Hong. 

He says while we're near the finish line we have yet to cross.

"Because our borders are not closed to diseases, I’m fearful that whatever happens in one part of the country could eventually make its way here to the Bay Area," he said. 

UC Berkeley's Dr. John Swartzberg says three things will have a huge impact.

"How we behave, how we behave as a society-that is our governments and how the virus behaves," he adds. 

Traveling, the way cities reopen, and the emergence of the UK Variant as the dominant coronavirus strain could lead to a surge that Dr. Swartzberg says will likely happen in the next six weeks.  

The good news is that the surge will likely not lead to overflowing ICUs as in the past year. 

"It’s going to be more of going up a hill, staying at the hill for a while and then down again," Dr. Swartberg says.

"But, it will cause more people to get sick, cause more people to get hospitalized, and tragically it will cause more deaths." 

Dr. Chin-Hong and Dr. Swartzberg both say that since we've passed the pandemic one year mark, natural immunity for those who had the virus alread may be wanning, making the surge all the more possible.

The state recommends that vaccine eligible people reach out to their health care providers.

To find if you qualify for the vaccine, or when you're up next in line stop by the California Department of Public Health for further information and resources.