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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

California To Give 40% Of Vaccine Doses To Vulnerable Areas

Speaker 1: 00:00 California is unveiling a new strategy and its vaccine rollout with the goal of protecting the most vulnerable populations and reopening more of the state. Governor Newsome is announcing that 40% of the available vaccine supply will now be dedicated to the most disadvantaged and hardest hit areas of the state. Here's Dr. Mark golly, Speaker 2: 00:23 Target vaccine strategically missions to protect our healthcare delivery system and save lives. Speaker 1: 00:31 Million doses are administered across the state and areas like the hard hits South Bay in San Diego officials say the COVID tier system could be relaxed and more areas of the economy open for business. Officials say the new strategy is both practical and equitable, but it also adds another layer of complication on an already strained vaccine supply. Joining me is Ron Lin. He's Metro reporter for the lesser Los Angeles times who specializes in reporting on the COVID-19 pandemic. And Ron, welcome to the program. Hello. So what is the criteria for a community to qualify for this extra vaccine supply? Speaker 2: 01:10 You'd have to live in generally a low income area as defined by the California healthy places index. It's basically the bottom 25% of a number of indicators such as, you know, being in a low income area or area with crowded housing. And these are generally areas hit as hard by the pandemic. So in San Diego County, this refers to places like the national city parts of Chula Vista, city Heights, alcohol in San Ysidro and neighborhoods of San Diego East and Southeast of downtown. Speaker 1: 01:37 Why do officials believe that increasing vaccine supply in these communities will speed up? California's reopening Speaker 2: 01:44 California is facing this really terrible imbalance in who is getting the vaccine. Essentially you're having wealthy, wider populations getting the vaccine at far greater rates than lower income, predominantly black and Latino areas. So we know that the bottom quarter of the state has gotten about 16% of the vaccine, but the richest areas of the state have received double that. Speaker 1: 02:07 And recent reporting found that Latino and black communities are actually falling behind white and Asian rates of vaccination. Did that factor into this decision? Speaker 2: 02:16 I think so. I mean, one of the things that I think the state is trying to do is that, you know, the areas of the state that are being hit the hardest are also areas that are transmitting the disease a lot. And so one idea now that in the coming weeks and months, the supply of vaccine is going to get better when idea to really squelch the pandemic is to really target these areas where the virus is transmitting the fastest. And if you can, if you can really target these hard hit areas that can really help squelch the pandemic and get us back back into reopening the state even faster. Speaker 1: 02:54 Well, let me ask you though, is it just that disadvantaged communities need more vaccine aren't there other considerations like available vaccination sites and maybe time off from work to get a vaccine that will increase the number of people in these communities that actually do get vaccinated? Speaker 2: 03:11 So a big issue right now is that in many cases you need to get online to make a reservation. And the demand is so crushing. It's a bit like trying to buy a concert ticket to a sold-out event. It helps if you can spend hours and hours, you know, pressing reload on your computer to get a reservation. And that system doesn't really help if you're working two jobs, uh, you're lower income and you just can't stick around your computer for a long time. So strategies that may work for a wealthier populations, you know, don't necessarily work for lower income populations. So part of this effort is, is to try to get situations in which more mobile clinics are going to disadvantaged areas. Uh, you know, maybe you distribute more vaccine through trusted, uh, community healthcare providers in these hard hit areas so that you get more vaccines into the arms of these hard hit communities. Speaker 1: 04:01 There's this new 40% allocation disrupt that 10% statewide vaccine allocation for teachers and school staff. Speaker 2: 04:08 No, that's still going to be in place. Speaker 1: 04:11 Okay. But it must mean that many communities will be getting less vaccine just when a lack of vaccine supply is a huge issue. So how are state officials addressing that fallout? Speaker 2: 04:21 Yeah, that's going to be a tricky thing. Um, I think they're hoping that more vaccine supply should help. It'll be still tricky in the next couple of weeks. I mean, we are getting the new Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which, you know, might help. Another thing that is still going to be tricky though, is that on March 15th, the state's going to be expanding eligibility for those with underlying medical conditions and the disabled who are not otherwise eligible now. And so, um, but I think the hope is that since so much vaccine is really going to wealthier people. This will actually just help balance the imbalance that's been going on. Speaker 1: 04:54 Will the COVID tier structure be redesigned because of this new strategy. Speaker 2: 04:58 So it'll actually make it faster to get out of the purple tier. So right now the state says 1.6 million doses in these neediest communities have it administered. And they're saying that once 400,000 more doses are administered, the state's going to relax thresholds for exiting out of the most restrictive tier. And that'll allow counties to open up indoor dining again, indoor gyms and indoor museums and zoos. Speaker 1: 05:23 How quickly could that happen? Because San Diego is, was almost there this time around. Speaker 2: 05:27 Yeah. So, um, as far as I know, San Diego County to, to leave the purple tier right now is for every a hundred thousand residents, you need to have an average daily case rate of seven or less. And the last I checked is that San Diego County had a, uh, an average daily case rate of just over 10, what this new uh, solution will do is it'll make it easier to cross that threshold. Um, so I would imagine that San Diego County would be able to move out of the purple tier much faster than in the old system. Okay. Speaker 1: 06:00 I've been speaking with Ron Lin, Metro reporter for the Los Angeles times. And Ron, thank you very much. Speaker 2: 06:06 Thanks for having me.

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California will begin setting aside 40% of all vaccine doses for the state’s most vulnerable neighborhoods in an effort to inoculate people most at risk from the coronavirus and get the state’s economy open more quickly.
KPBS Midday Edition Segments