Vaccines for all in California sounds too good to be true, some health officers say

Vaccines for all, promised to Californians in less than a month.

It sounds too good to be true for some county health officials, responding to Gov. Gavin Newsom's Thursday announcement.

"I have no idea how many vaccines that means, but it's been a production issue, all manufacturers have not had enough vaccine to send out," Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Marty Fenstersheib said. 

Newsom is expanding vaccine eligibility dramatically.

Beginning April 1, anyone over age 50 can get in line.

On April 15, anyone over 16 is qualified.

But many health officers are openly doubtful because of continuing shortages.

Santa Clara County, for one, will receive 58,000 doses next week, the same week that all people over 50 are added.

"On April 1st when we add those additional 400,000  thousand people, we don't have the vaccine," said Fenstersheib.

The county has the capacity to vaccinate more than 200,000 people weekly but is accomplishing only one-third of that.

So the timing of the expansion is troubling as it may raise unrealistic expectations.

"While you are waiting it's really important that we don't give that virus a chance to mutate and multiply," said Fenstersheib, urging people to be patient and continue prevention measures.

In some respects, vying for vaccines now seems simpler: age, occupation, and pre-existing conditions will soon be irrelevant.

"I will be eligible myself next Thursday," said Newsom, 53, explaining that the state is able to stop metering vaccine because Johnson and Johnson is promising abundance.  "Our ability to do more is always constrained by manufactured supplies and we have confidence now that supply is becoming available sooner than anticipated."

Sooner is also better in the race between vaccines and variants.

"We have to get people vaccinated as we see surges in other parts of the country and surges in other parts of the globe," said California Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Mark Ghaly.

Newsom noted that 16 million vaccinations have been administered in California so far, and he looks forward to the day the virus is defeated.

"This is not mission accomplished, we're not spiking the football," he said, "but we are not going to just come back, we're going to come roaring back."

In the weeks ahead though, the sense of competition may actually intensify.

People between 50 and 65 have only two weeks to find a vaccination slot before everyone else in the population becomes eligible too.

"It's unfair, but the world is unfair right now," said Brian Nelson, 71, of San Anselmo.

Nelson was exiting a Kaiser vaccination clinic after receiving his first dose.

He was frustrated that hsi 64-year-old spouse still hasn't secured one.

"My wife has been waiting, waiting, waiting, and she tries to check-in and every place says they don't have anything," said Nelson. "There would be availability if they weren't taking the young people in first."

Until now, young people were only eligible under certain conditions: health complications or working conditions.

"It's part of my job to bring people food and they don't have masks on and I'm exposed to hundreds of people a day," said Gregory Mardesich,19, a cashier at Panerra Bread in San Rafael.

As food handlers, Mardesich and his co-workers were offered vaccinations and jumped at the chance.

"Considering how many people I interact with on a daily basis, within 6 feet of most of them, I think it's perfectly okay," said Mardesich.

Still he worries about his parents, still unvaccinated.

"I live with my mom and my dad and they're still waiting to get it, hopefully soon."

When there is a stampede of people for shots, regardless of age, it will fall upon younger people to hang back.

"Personally I think people who need it more should have it first," said Kye McKeown, 18, who works at the snack bar of a San Rafael movie theatre.

He too was offered a vaccination because of his work, and accepted, along with many co-workers.

"I did feel bad about this, but I also realized it would be a lot more helpful for our customer's sake if they feel safe with me, handling their products."

Currently, California receives about 1.8 million doses of vaccine weekly.

That is anticipated to grow to 2.5 million during the first few weeks of April, and surpass 3 million by the end of next month.