A medical worker prepares to administer a COVID-19 vaccine at a Veterans Affairs COVID-19 vaccination center in Washington, D.C., on March 8. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
March 15 (UPI) -- California on Monday opened up eligibility to receive a coronavirus vaccine to more than 4 million residents and Texas is expanding access to people above the age of 50, while several other states expand access to the shots.
The California Department of Public Health said new appointments beginning Monday must be made at distribution sites, however, since vaccine supplies are still limited.
The department said those with weakened immune systems, from ailments like cancer and solid organ transplants, are now eligible to be vaccinated.
Others newly eligible include those with chronic kidney disease, Down syndrome, pregnancy, sickle cell disease, some heart conditions, severe obesity and some Type 2 diabetes.
San Francisco officials said those with HIV/AIDS are now on its list of those who are now eligible for the vaccine.
"This is a great step in protecting members of our community who are at higher risk of contracting or dying from COVID-19," San Francisco Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax said in a statement.
"Many of those with underlying health conditions and disabilities or who are in congregate living settings have had to endure greater isolation this past year for fear of becoming gravely ill from COVID-19 and vaccinating this population is a critical step in protecting our city."
California residents can sign up through their healthcare provider, at local pharmacies, their municipal health departments and community pop-up clinics. Residents can also book appointments online or calling the state's COVID-19 hotline.
"You will be asked to state that you have a high-risk medical condition or disability, either to book an available appointment or to register for notice of future appointments made available as supply increases," the state health department said in a statement.
In Texas on Monday, officials updated their eligibility restrictions to allow vaccinations for anyone over the age of 50.
Officials said the new access applies to about 5 million residents in the 1C stage, the third tier Texas has opened to vaccines.
"As Texas progresses into Phase 1C in the coming weeks, the state will continue to work with vaccine providers and other local partners to ensure that people who are in Phase 1A, 1B and 1C have access to the vaccine. Individual providers will have the flexibility to further prioritize vaccination within these groups," the Texas Department of State Health Services said in a statement.
President Joe Biden has asked that all states make vaccines available to all persons, regardless of age or qualifying condition, by May 1. Many states have said they are on track to meet that goal.
Other states' eligibility changes on Monday:
- The state of Florida has lowered the eligibility age from 65 to 60.
- Georgia, the state with the lowest vaccination rate in the United States, has opened eligibility to residents 55 to 64.
- New Jersey has expanded worker groups who are now eligible to be vaccinated.
- Missouri moves to Phase 1B of its eligibility tier, which officials say opens access to 550,000 more people.
- Idaho opens eligibility for residents 55-64 with at least one medical condition.
- Ohio will begin offering canceled and unbooked vaccine appointments to the public.
National Institutes of Health official Dr. Anthony Fauci (C) speaks about the coronavirus during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C. Health and Human Services Secretary Alexander Azar (L) announced that the United States is declaring the virus a public health emergency and issued a federal quarantine order of 14 days for 195 Americans. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI | License Photo