BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Time and time again health officials have said widespread vaccinations are the key to reopening the country. In Kern County, only select groups can get vaccinated right now. But that's set to change.
Per Governor Gavin Newsom's mandate, only people in Phase 1-a and 1-b can get vaccinated. This includes health care workers, pharmacy staff, people 65 and older, and educators. But the state is now expanding to those age 16 and up with underlying medical conditions.
"A lot of these groups that are now eligible are likely based upon the data that is showing who is much more susceptible to this disease," explained Michelle Corson of Kern County Public Health.
The California Department of Public Health released new vaccine eligibility guidelines Friday, giving many Californians with underlying conditions, access to a shot. Those conditions specified include current cancer patients, chronic kidney disease or pulmonary disease, type 2 diabetes, solid organ transplant, pregnancy, sickle cell disease, heart conditions, severe obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
According to data released in February, about 33 percent of Kern County residents who died from COVID also had diabetes. About 37 percent of local deaths also had hypertension listed as an underlying condition, but hypertension is not included in the new guidelines.
Another group that will be eligible are people who live or work in what the state calls congregate residential settings.
"So that is those who are incarcerated, in detention facilities, homeless shelters, behavioral health facilities," said Corson.
Health officials said public transit workers, including airport workers for commercial airlines, will also be eligible.
Kern Public Health said the new eligibility guidelines put out Friday are exciting. So, was President Joe Biden's announcement on Thursday that he wanted all adults to be vaccine-eligible by May.
"All adult Americans will be eligible to get a vaccine no later than May 1," said President Biden in an address to the nation on Thursday night.
Corson said that's a feasible goal but only if the vaccine supply is ramped up.
"The only thing that's missing is vaccines. So, once that vaccine starts flowing, we feel strongly that kern county is ready and able to meet the need."
Corson also said Biden's goal of returning to some form of normalcy by the Fourth of July is feasible in Kern County. That's as long as the COVID metrics continue improving, and again if vaccine distribution continues to increase.