Any Orange County resident age 65 and older is now eligible to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, county health officials said Tuesday, Jan. 12.
People age 75 and older – as well as city and county fire department personnel – were recently given preference by the OC Health Care Agency as it starts up the vaccination campaign’s second stage, Phase 1B.
But after reviewing some alarming statistics on who is hospitalized and in intensive care because of COVID-19, the county’s vaccine task force late Sunday recommended expanding vaccinations to people 65 and older, County Health Officer Dr. Clayton Chau told the Board of Supervisors Tuesday.
Data from about 13 hospitals, which are providing the bulk of care to COVID-19 patients in the county, showed a majority of people who are hospitalized, as well as most of those requiring intensive care and in need of a ventilator, are 61 or older, Chau said.
“My goal is to make sure that we vaccinate the most vulnerable so we can prevent them from going into the hospital, prevent them from going into the ICU, and most importantly, to prevent them from dying,” Chau said.
For now, he’s advising people to contact their doctor or health provider to ask about getting inoculated. The county also is urging residents to plan to use a new app it helped develop called Othena, but the app is not yet allowing people to make vaccination appointments.
This week the county is opening a large-scale vaccination site at Disneyland, expected to be the first of five such operations.
Like health care workers in Phase 1A, anyone who’s now in the eligible age range will need an appointment initiated by organizations that serve older adults and are partnering with the county.
“There will also be targeted communications to these older adult communities,” the Health Care Agency’s Vaccination Distribution website says. The shots will be administered at both mass vaccination sites and smaller sites that will be deployed closer to where seniors live.
Other cohorts in Phase 1B, including teachers and childcare workers, and workers in food and agriculture, are not yet invited to be vaccinated.
It was not immediately clear Tuesday if the rollout to older residents had already begun as health care professionals in the overlapping Phase 1A continued to queue up at invite-only vaccination sites in Anaheim, Irvine and Huntington Beach, where shots began last week.
The announcement came amid mounting pressure on health departments nationwide to get more needles into more arms.
This is a developing story.