It will be at least 2 weeks before O.C. expands vaccines to teachers, food service workers, health officer says

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With only about a quarter of Orange County residents who are 65 and older vaccinated, public health officials say it will be at least two weeks before eligibility is expanded to others like teachers and food service workers. 

The county is currently getting about 37,000 doses a week, while there are around 700,000 seniors and health care workers eligible to get a shot, O.C. Health Officer Dr. Clayton Chau said in a briefing Tuesday.

“We will continue, full force, vaccinating our seniors for the next two weeks, and then will reevaluate then,” Chau said. “Adding more people to the denominator is not helping.” 

Chau says he’s faced stiff pressure to expand eligibility to groups next in the priority line, and he was even “yelled at” by one mayor about teachers not yet having access.  

But any expansion made now would impact seniors’ access to the vaccine, “and I just want to remind folks that they are the most vulnerable population,” Chau said.

Even with the limited supply, Chau estimates more than 10% of the county’s nearly 3.2 million residents have been vaccinated.

The health officer also said he expects far more people will be eligible for a shot in O.C. by next month, provided Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is approved. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is asking its independent advisers to publicly debate the vaccine’s efficacy on Feb. 26 before it decides whether to green light a third vaccine option.

In the meantime, Chau asked for patience from those still waiting for their turn.

“Yes, you want it. I agree you deserve it,” he said. “But we have seniors at highest risk who still have not had an opportunity for the vaccine.”

On Saturday, the O.C. health agency said there were more than 593,000 people registered to get a vaccine.

As a result, those who sign up may not immediately get an appointment. They’re in a “waiting room” and will later get their appointment confirmed. It could take about two weeks to hear back. Those waiting are being prioritized based on age and time of registration.

Residents can only make an appointment online by clicking here. Those with questions can call 714-834-2000 or watch a video tutorial on how to use the website.

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