Starting April 15, all Californians 16 and older will be able to sign up for COVID-19 vaccines — with those 50 and older becoming eligible earlier, on April 1, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday.
“With vaccine supply increasing and by expanding eligibility to more Californians, the light at the end of the tunnel continues to get brighter,” Newsom said in a statement. “This is possible thanks to the leadership of the Biden-Harris Administration and the countless public health officials across the state who have stepped up to get shots into arms.”
The major expansion comes after the state allowed those aged 16 to 64 with certain health conditions and disabilities to sign up for the shots on March 15. Before that, only health care workers, long-term care facility staff and residents, people 65 and older, and workers in food, agriculture, education, child care and emergency services sectors were being vaccinated.
“So in just a few weeks, there’ll be no rules, no limitations, as it relates to the ability to get a vaccine administered,” the governor said in a news conference in Orange County.
Even with all adults being able to sign up soon, it will take “several months” for all willing residents to get vaccinated, state officials said.
But more doses are expected to roll into the state in the coming weeks.
Officials said the state anticipates being allocated about 2.5 million first and second vaccine doses every week in the first half of April, and more than 3 million doses during the rest of the month.
California already has the capacity to administer more than 3 million vaccines a week, but has been getting only about 1.8 million doses per week. By the end of April, the state should have the capacity to administer 4 million doses a week, officials said.
So far, California has administered more than 15 million doses in a vaccine rollout that began with scattered vaccination eligibility in different counties and forced residents to maneuver different appointment portals that at times met them with technical problems and disappearing appointment slots.
Currently eligible Californians are now able to make vaccine appointments through the state-operate website, MyTurn.ca.gov, or by calling 833-422-4255. That’s in addition to all the different county health department, pharmacy and health care provider websites.
California started reserving 40% of its doses for the state’s most vulnerable neighborhoods after inequities emerged in its vaccination efforts. Newsom said that effort will continue even as eligibility expands.
In his first prime-time address, President Joe Biden pledged to make all adults eligible for vaccines by May 1. Though California is expanding eligibility ahead of that date, it has lagged behind some other states in opening up vaccinations to everyone ages 16 and older.
Alaska, West Virginia and Mississippi were already vaccinating all adults, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“We are even closer to putting this pandemic behind us with today’s announcement and with vaccine supplies expected to increase dramatically in the months ahead,” said California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly. “However, we are not there yet. It will take time to vaccinate all eligible Californians. During this time, we must not let our guard down. It is important that we remain vigilant, continue to wear masks and follow public health guidance.”
Newsom had announced on Jan. 25 that the state would move to age-based eligibility after shots are received by older residents and essential workers, but it wasn’t clear when that could happen until Thursday’s announcement.
The governor said the state was able to set the April 15 date for the expansion after finding out about vaccine supplies becoming available sooner than expected.
“We have confidence now the manufactured supply becoming available sooner than we anticipated,” he said.