Relief as California expands vaccine eligibility

California health officials Friday announced a date for the next group of residents eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Currently health care workers and those 65 years and older are eligible for vaccinations.

Friday, State Health Director Dr. Mark Ghaly announced that starting March 15, the next group to get the vaccine will be people between the ages of 16 and 64 with some types of cancer, diabetes, heart, lung, and kidney conditions, along with pregnant women and those with Down syndrome.

"Now having a date, it's just a big sigh of relief," said Juliet Bonczkowski of Oakland.

Bonczkowski lives with her 40-year-old sister, Alice, who has Down syndrome.

"It's been shown that folks with Down syndrome at age 40 and higher have the same risk factor as the typical population at age 80," said Bonczkowski.

Patricia Heckman of Fremont lives with her 22-year-old son George, who also has Down syndrome.

"We'll be getting it as soon as we can for sure," said Heckman. "I think it's just a relief. It really is. I don't have to worry as much 'cause I just don't want him to get sick."

Stanford infectious disease specialist Dr. Yvonne Maldonado says the expanded vaccine eligibility is a positive in that it widens who can get it. However, she questions if there will be enough supply in a month.

"I was just on a call with a number of County Health Departments just before this and I think we're all just a little nervous of where is the vaccine going to come from and how much is going to come," said Dr. Maldonado.

13 million Californians are currently eligible for the vaccine.
The expanded group in phase 1C is estimated to add between 4 and 6 million more residents to the front of the line.  
Friday night at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, 78-year-old Sunnyvale resident Matt Moniz and his wife got their first dose of the vaccine.

"We got it pretty much side by side," said Moniz.

Site officials say since the site opened Tuesday, they have expanded from 500 vaccinations a day to 1,500 on Friday.
Those exiting the newly opened mass vaccination site left with a sticker and the hope that others will soon have the same opportunity.