SAN JOSE, Calif. - Millions more Californians will soon be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. But that news is tempered by a stark reality related to vaccine supply.
Santa Clara County public health officials held a news conference Thursday afternoon where they dispensed the cold, hard truth of reality: Vaccination eligibility does little if shortages continue plaguing the process.
"We have the capacity and the ability to rev up to three times what we’re doing now. But we don’t have the vaccine," said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, the county’s testing and vaccine officer.
Officials said they administering 200,000 doses per week. Lowering COVID vaccination eligibility to people 50 and older starting April 1, adds 400,000 people to the wait lines. This comes at a time when shortages have forced some sites to cancel giving shots.
The age limit also drops to people and above on April 16. State health officials believe the lowering of the age limit will be met with an increase in vaccine supply.
Currently, the federal government sends California 1.8 million doses per week. Newsom said that will increase to 2.5 million doses per week by the first half of April. And by the end of April, officials hope to receive 3 million doses per week.
"There’s not just light at the end of the tunnel. There’s a bright light at the end of the tunnel," Newsom said, during a news conference in Santa Ana on Thursday.
The governor said so far, 15.5 million doses have been administered, and that the state’s positivity rate is down to 2%.
"There’s less opportunity for the virus to spread because more people are going to be immune. So it’s like a cascading effect," said Dr. Marcelle Dougan, an assistant professor in the San Jose State University Department of Public Health and Recreation.
State health officials said most California counties have now exited the state's most restrictive purple tier. Health services administrators said 40% of the vaccine is targeted for underserved communities and communities of color.
"We understand the importance of creating equitable access not only to COVID testing and vaccinations but to primary care to our patients and communities," said Castulo de la Rocha, president and CEO of AltaMed Health Services.
Officials said the next level of Covid protection – increasing the number of vaccinations – could end the virus threat. But reaching that goal will mean increasing the supply of medicine most people will be able to get in April.
"We really do want to caution people to please be patient. We are being told by the federal government and the state that vaccine will be flowing a little bit better," said Dr. Fenstersheib.
He said the vaccine production issue should be resolved by the end of next month That, coupled with other manufacturers bringing their vaccines to market should ease the supply shortage.