Like many Californians, 47-year-old Ntombi Peters has watched the state’s plodding vaccine rollout with equal parts anticipation and dread. For months, the Long Beach resident believed her turn would be next. Then, last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that disabled and chronically ill Californians were losing their place in the line.
“They act as if we do not exist. Or if we do, we’re expendable,” said Peters, who uses multiple inhalers and daily medications to control her severe asthma and is on immunosuppressant drugs to treat multiple sclerosis, both of which put her at severe risk from COVID-19. “It’s very disheartening.”
Like most states, California had previously planned to deliver vaccines in tiers, with essential workers and people with certain high-risk medical conditions prioritized over healthy, low-risk adults. But that work has been slower here than elsewhere. In response, Newsom abruptly reversed course on Jan. 25, scrapping the tiers in favor of a purely age-based rollout.
Experts say that move could be a shot in the arm for the state’s sluggish inoculation program. But for disabled and chronically ill Californians, the decision sparked confusion, distress and anger.
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