Older adults may be included in the next group of Californians to get coronavirus vaccines, under a new proposal that state vaccine advisers considered Wednesday.
People 75 and older and people between ages 65 and 74 with health conditions are now being considered for inclusion in the roughly 15 million Californians who could be next in line to get vaccinated after health care workers and long-term care facility residents.
Previously, the state’s vaccine advisory committees were considering only essential workers for this next group, such as teachers, grocery store workers and firefighters. If the state does include older adults, it would mirror recommendations made last weekend by a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory committee.
The proposal has not yet been approved by the vaccine committees that make recommendations to the state on how to prioritize vaccinations. One of the committees, the Drafting Guidelines Workgroup, is slated to meet Dec. 30 to further discuss the matter and send its recommendations to the state then. The state expects to finalize who is in the next group within a week or so, California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly said Tuesday.
Older adults are at much higher risk of dying or becoming severely ill from COVID-19 than younger people. The death rate for people 65 to 74 years old is 90 times higher than that for people 18 to 29, according to CDC data. It is 220 times higher for people 75 to 84, and 630 times higher for people 85 and older, compared to people 18 to 29.
California is currently vaccinating the roughly 2.4 million people in the first priority group, or Phase 1a, which are health care workers and residents and staff at long-term care facilities. The next group, Phase 1b — the group that will likely include essential workers and potentially seniors — will probably get vaccinated in January and February, according to estimates from federal health officials.
Phase 1b may be divided into two tiers. The first could include 1.4 million education and child care workers including teachers, 1.1 million emergency services workers, 3.4 million food and agriculture workers including grocery store workers and 2.6 million people who are 75 or older. The second tier could include half a million critical manufacturing workers, 2.1 million facilities and services workers, 1.1 million transportation and logistics workers, 300,000 people who are incarcerated or homeless and 2.5 million people between ages 65 to 74.
“We don’t have enough vaccines so we’re going to have to make tough choices until we do,” Dr. Oliver Brooks, co-chair of the Drafting Guidelines Workgroup.
California has vaccinated more than 120,000 people so far, state health officer Dr. Erica Pan said Wednesday.