California to expand vaccine eligibility to anyone over 16

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Healthcare workers tend to people in cars at a drive up vaccination center at City College of San Francisco during the coronavirus pandemic in San Francisco, Thursday, March 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

SANTA ANA, Calif. – California will start vaccinating anyone 16 and over against the coronavirus starting in three weeks, expanding eligibility to the shots along with a host of other states as a long-awaited boost in vaccine supplies is in sight.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday that the nation's most populous state would start vaccinating anyone 50 and over in a week and the population more broadly — except those under 16, for whom vaccines have not yet been authorized — on April 15.

The decision comes as California, which was initially slow to roll out the vaccines but has ramped up inoculations in recent weeks, expects to receive 2.5 million doses a week in the first half of the month and more than 3 million a week in the second, a big jump from the roughly 1.8 million doses a week currently.

“In just a few weeks, there’ll be no rules, no limitations, as it relates to the ability to get a vaccine administered," Newsom said at a news conference in Orange County. “This state is going to come roaring back."

The move comes as some California counties have veered away from the state’s eligibility criteria by opening up the shots for people with a broader range of medical conditions than those required in most places, and in some cases, at younger ages. It also comes as governors across the country have expanded eligibility for the vaccine as supplies have increased. Earlier this month, Alaska opened eligibility to any resident over 16. Florida said Thursday it will open eligibility to anyone 18 and over on April 5, while Texas will start inoculating all adults next week.

President Joe Biden’s administration wants all states to make every adult eligible for the vaccine by May 1.

Even with the expansion, it will take several months for willing Californians to be vaccinated, state officials said.

Some county officials were eager to vaccinate more people while others said they were concerned there wouldn't be enough doses to keep up with rising demand. In Southern California's Riverside County, more appointments have been available recently due to the boost in vaccine supplies. The county opened up 30,000 appointments this week, far more than previously weeks when slots hovered in the low 20,000s, said Jose Arballo, a spokesman for the county's health agency.