SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Advocates for farmworkers, teachers, grocery store clerks and other essential workers are worried they will have to wait until this summer to be vaccinated against the coronavirus as California considers giving priority to older residents.
State officials said the move makes sense given older people have a much higher rate of hospitalization and death from COVID-19. But with California struggling to get and give the vaccine, it could take until June to vaccinate all Californians 65 and older, the Sacramento Bee reported Sunday.
That could mean teachers and school workers will probably not be vaccinated until this summer, said Debra Schade, a school board member at the Solana Beach School District in San Diego County and a director at the California School Boards Association.
“It will be a heavy lifting to get those districts open … without risk mitigation that the vaccine would provide,” she said.
Some local governments have already started vaccinating essential workers and Fresno County said it will begin offering vaccines on Monday to about 3,000 farmworkers. But Noe Paramo, an advocate at the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, said without clear guidance from the state to prioritize vaccinating farmworkers, counties could decide to leave them fall by the wayside.
Three-quarters of those who died from COVID-19 in California were 65 or older, according to data recently presented to a state vaccine advisory committee.
By vaccinating older adults first, the state could push down the number of those hospitalized, which could benefit the community as a whole, California Department of Public Health Director Dr. Tomás J. Aragón said at the meeting.
The rates of new coronavirus infections and hospitalizations are dropping across California, but health officials warn those trends are tempered by very high death rates.
The state reported 429 deaths on Sunday, two days after reaching a one-day record of 764, according to the Department of Public Health. California’s death toll since the start of the pandemic rose to 36,790, while total cases reached over 3.1 million.
Meanwhile, the number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 was 17,810 statewide, a drop of 17% in two weeks.
The positivity rate for people being tested has dropped by 10% statewide in the last week, which means fewer people will end up in hospitals.