California shifting to age-based COVID vaccine eligibility amid confusing rollout

As California remains in the lower rankings among states for COVID-19 vaccine distribution, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced new efforts to simplify the confusing system and address age eligibility. 

Newsom made the announcement during a COVID response briefing on Monday. This, as state officials are frustrated with the federal government’s vaccine allocation, local governments are upset with Newsom for changing the age requirement and a variety of different systems are used throughout the state’s 58 counties. 

Now, according to a release issued Monday, there will be a statewide standard when moving through tiers that decide who gets a shot. Vaccinations will continue to be available for people 65 years and older and health care workers. The shift will also prioritize emergency services, food and agricultural workers and teachers.

"Vaccines are the light at the end of the tunnel, and I am focused on taking the steps needed to get Californians safely vaccinated as quickly as possible," said Newsom.

From there, the state wants to move to age-based eligibility to ensure communities disproportionately impacted receive their shots, though specific details were not provided. Newsom said California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly would have more information available on Tuesday. 

"With the framework always on equity, we're not losing sight of any of our fundamentals or our values, but we realized we have got to increase throughput here," Newsom said.

The announcement followed state officials lifting the regional stay-at-home order statewide in response to virus conditions improving. Counties will revert back to the state's four-tier, color-coded system that relaxes restrictions for some businesses.  

The state is also preparing to launch My Turn, a new system that sends users notifications for when they’re eligible to be vaccinated, but it’s still being piloted in Southern California and isn’t expected to be available until early February.  

Additionally, the Department of Public Health will now allow vaccine doses to be reallocated from providers who have not used at least 65 percent of their week’s supply or issued a plan for administering the remaining doses.

So far, California has distributed less than half vaccines on hand, according to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker. The Golden State has administered 2,321,811 of the 4,906,525 doses received, which ranks 45th in the nation for percentage of vaccines administered.

But it has shown signs of improvement. Newsom said the daily pace of vaccinations has tripled from 43,459 per day on Jan 4 to 131,620 on Jan 15, according to the state.

As of the weekend, California has more than 3.1 million confirmed virus cases and 36,790 deaths, according to the state’s public health website.

Keep up with the news by downloading KTVU's news app and subscribing to our newsletter