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California to give 40% of vaccine doses to vulnerable communities

Gov. Newsom discussed health inequities in disproportionally impacted communities.
Credit: Johnson & Johnson
Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine is expected to bolster the vaccination effort along with the already approved Moderna and Pfizer Vaccines.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California will begin setting aside 40% of all vaccine doses for the state's most vulnerable neighborhoods to inoculate people most at-risk from the coronavirus more quickly.

California will distribute the doses among 400 ZIP codes, with about 8 million people eligible for shots. Once 2 million vaccine doses are given out in those neighborhoods, the state will make it easier for counties to move through reopening tiers that dictate what businesses can be open.

"With more vaccines online and administered, California is now in a position to take steps toward ending this pandemic by keeping our guard up and by vaccinating those Californians most at risk and most exposed," said Gov. Gavin Newsom. "Vaccinating our most impacted communities, across our state, is the right thing to do and the fastest way to end this pandemic."

The state's decision to distribute vaccines to those zip codes is based on the "healthy places index." This database ranks things like family income, education level, access to public transportation, and air quality, among others. 

Administrators estimate that California will reach the 2 million vaccination mark in about a week or two. This would impact school re-openings if the counties easily move to the red tier if the state goes through with its current plan. Schools in the red tier must open elementary schools and at least one grade in middle or high schools.

A California state official, who spoke on background, said it shouldn't be a surprise that these areas are primarily Latino, Black, and Asian Pacific Islanders because those communities are historically underserved.

State health officials are concerned that even in hard-hit areas, people who live there are not getting the vaccine.

The rate of infections for households making less than $40,000 per year is more than double that of households with an income of $120,000 or more. At the same time, California's wealthiest populations are being vaccinated at nearly twice the rate of our most vulnerable populations, the state said.

"By vaccinating more people, and those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19, science tells us that the disease should spread more slowly, giving variants fewer opportunities to take hold, and the health care system should be preserved," said Secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency Dr. Mark Ghaly.

Newsom announced Wednesday the state could include vaccination rates when considering whether counties could move through the tier system.

Administrators indicated the state is also adjusting the COVID-19 case rate to move into the red tier, from seven per 100,000 people to 10 cases per 100,000 people a day.   

Moving from orange to yellow would be easier after the most disadvantaged communities receive 4 million COVID-19 vaccine doses.

"Our goal is to get to the day when the Blueprint is no longer needed. As more people are vaccinated and more vaccines are available, especially in our most impacted communities, we can envision a day when California can enter the 'green tier' - in which strict public health measures will no longer be needed," Newsom said.

WATCH MORE: Health officials warn to not let guards down even after vaccinations