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California residents 16 or older with pre-existing conditions can get a COVID-19 vaccine starting next month

  • California will expand vaccine eligibility starting next month. 
  • Those between 16 and 64 years old with pre-existing conditions can be vaccinated starting March 15.
  • The eligibility expansion comes as LA County closes vaccination sites due to a shortage of doses.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

California residents between the ages of 16 and 64 who are at high risk for severe COVID-19 complications could get vaccinated starting next month, state health officials announced on Friday. 

Providers will be able to use their "clinical judgment" to allow those who have underlying conditions like cancer, diabetes, or heart conditions to get a vaccine starting on March 15. Additionally, anyone who is determined to have any other severe high-risk disability is also eligible. 

Right now, only people 65 and over, health-care workers and residents, and staff at long-term nursing facilities are eligible to be vaccinated. 

The Los Angeles Times says officials estimate the move would make an additional four to six million residents eligible to be vaccinated. 

Advocates said the plan was a positive step moving forward. 

"There's no question that there's going to be a lot of challenges, but there's also no question that this new policy is dramatically better," Andy Imparato of Disability Rights California, who also serves on the state's vaccine advisory committee, told the Times. "This creates a safety valve for people under 65." 

Read more: Meet the little-known power player with the 'hardest job' on Capitol Hill. She's shaping Trump's impeachment trial and Joe Biden's agenda. 

However, the announcement comes as Los Angeles County struggles to keep vaccination sites open due to a shortage of doses.

On Thursday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that five vaccination sites, including the one at Dodger Stadium, would be closed until Tuesday or Wednesday.

"We're vaccinating people faster than new vials are arriving here in Los Angeles," Garcetti said during a news conference. "I'm concerned as your mayor that our vaccine supply is uneven, it's unpredictable and too often inequitable."

Local outlet ABC7 reported that while the county's sites can vaccinate an average of 600,000 a week, they're only receiving about 200,000 doses each week. Paul Simon, chief science officer for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, told the outlet that the state needs a greater supply to be able to meet the demand for the expanded eligibility. 

Approximately 10% of Californians have received at least their first shot of the vaccine so far, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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