California allows everyone 65 and older to get COVID-19 vaccine

Coronavirus Vaccine

Jim Clark, 86, receives a first dose of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine from UC Davis Health on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, in Sacramento, Calif. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, Pool)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (NewsNation Now) —  California is immediately allowing residents 65 and older to get scarce coronavirus vaccines.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement Wednesday puts seniors in line before emergency workers, teachers, childcare providers and food and agriculture workers even as counties complain they already don’t have enough doses to go around.

“There is no higher priority than efficiently and equitably distributing these vaccines as quickly as possible to those who face the gravest consequences,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement. “To those not yet eligible for vaccines, your turn is coming. We are doing everything we can to bring more vaccines into the state.”

While health care workers and those in nursing homes and other congregate living facilities can still be vaccinated, state officials are expanding to those 65 and up because they are at the greatest risk of being hospitalized and dying.

California has seen virus cases and hospitalizations explode since Thanksgiving, though in recent days the numbers have flattened.

“With our hospitals crowded and ICUs full, we need to focus on vaccinating Californians who are at highest risk of becoming hospitalized to alleviate stress on our health care facilities,” said Dr. Tomás Aragón, director of the California Department of Public Health and the state’s Public Health Officer. “Prioritizing individuals age 65 and older will reduce hospitalizations and save lives.”

The state is averaging 42,000 newly reported virus cases a day and recorded 3,500 virus deaths in the last week. On Monday, the pandemic death toll topped 30,000.

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Stay-at-home restrictions for 13 northern California counties were lifted Tuesday.

The order imposed on Dec. 10 banned gatherings outside a household and restricted many businesses. With virus cases and hospitalizations more stable, the region can resume outdoor dining and worship services, reopen hair and nail salons and other businesses, and increase capacity at retailers. Gatherings up to three households are allowed.

Three of five state regions, the San Francisco Bay Area, the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California, remain under the stay-at-home order because their hospitals’ intensive care capacity is severely limited.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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