Millions of Californians to become eligible for vaccine Monday – SF Gate

California is opening up COVID-19 vaccines on Monday to a new group: those age 16 to 64 with disabilities or with qualifying health conditions that put them at greater risk of severe illness or death if they become infected.

The state estimates 4.4 million people fall within this category, but due to limited vaccine supply not everyone will be able to get inoculated immediately.

People with one of the following 10 conditions deemed “severe” by the state are eligible: cancer; chronic kidney disease of stage 4 or above; chronic pulmonary disease; Down syndrome; weakened immune system due to solid organ transplant; pregnancy; sickle cell disease; heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease or cardiomyopathies (but not hypertension); severe obesity; and Type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Individuals with disabilities are also eligible, and the state provided many examples of people who fall into this category, including people who use regional centers, independent living centers, in-home supportive services, adult day health centers, Medi-Cal HIV/AIDS waivers and Medi-Cal home and community-based alternatives waivers, Medi-Cal assisted living waivers, California’s Children’s Services Program (if the child is 16 to 21 years old) and the California Genetically Handicapped Persons Program.

The California Department of Public Health released guidelines Thursday and said people with these high-risk conditions or disabilities won’t be required to provide documentation to verify their diagnosis to get vaccines, but they may be asked to sign a self-attestation that they meet the criteria.

The state recommended eligible people begin by reaching out to their health care providers.

“We strongly recommend individuals with these conditions seek vaccination with a primary health care provider or system, or in an alternate clinical setting,” the state said. “Check first with your usual health care provider to see if they have vaccines and available appointments. Health care providers who have vaccines may also begin reaching out to you, as a patient with a significant, high-risk medical condition or disability known to the provider, to schedule your vaccine appointment.”

The state said pharmacies, county health departments and community pop-up clinic may also have vaccine appointments for those with disabilities and medical conditions but some may be focused on giving shots to other groups such as education workers.

San Francisco officials announced Friday they are expanding on the state’s definition for qualifying medical conditions, including allowing people living with HIV to be vaccinated beginning March 15. What’s more, the city is broadening the state’s category for disabilities to include developmental, medical, physical, sensory or behavioral health disabilities, including severe mental health and substance use disorders.

The city warned that despite the expanded eligibility the vaccine remains in short supply.

“Next week, we’ll be moving forward with expanding vaccine access in San Francisco and we’ll continue working with accessibility advocates and community members to make sure we are doing our best to reach everyone who is eligible,”  Mayor London Breed said in a statement. “Although supply is still not at the level we need it to be, we’re continuing to make good progress and we’ll keep doing our best to get vaccines to people as quickly and conveniently as we can.”

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