"And we are committing now, as a state, to provide that overlay in that lower quartile of the Healthy Place Index with 40% of all of the vaccines targeted at communities that have had this disproportionate burden."
"Low income households, earning less than $40,000 a year, have been impacted two times those in households whose incomes are north of $120,000. They've been impacted by multiples in terms of the impact of this disease and this pandemic. At the same time, insult to injury, households earning over $120,000 have twice the access to vaccines than those communities that have been disproportionately impacted. That is what we have to reconcile. We have to own up to that."
California will begin setting aside 40% of all vaccine doses for people who live in the most vulnerable neighborhoods in an effort to inoculate people most at risk from the coronavirus and get the state’s economy open more quickly.
The doses will be spread among 400 ZIP codes where there are about 8 million people eligible for shots, said Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state's health and human services secretary.
Many of the neighborhoods are concentrated in Los Angeles County and the central valley, which have had among the highest rates of infection.
The areas are considered most vulnerable based on metrics such as household income, education level, housing status and access to transportation.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, said at a Thursday news briefing that not only is this the right thing to do, but it's critical to opening up more of the state's economy.
The announcement is the latest change in an ever-evolving system to get California's nearly 40 million residents vaccinated, adding to ongoing confusion among people who just want to know when they can get the shot.
The move to ease reopening standards also comes days after several Republican-led states announced they were lifting COVID-19 restrictions as the U.S. now has three vaccines available.
The new policy of tying reopening to vaccination equity metrics was cheered by representatives of the medical and small business communities, and legislative Black and Latino caucuses.
Latinos make up roughly half of cases and deaths in California even though they are 39% of the population.
Currently, people 65 and over, farmworkers and grocery clerks, educators and emergency service workers are eligible for shots in California; transit workers, flight attendants and hardware store clerks are among those clamoring to be added to the priority access list.
Setting aside 40% of vaccine supply essentially means that hard-hit ZIP codes will be administering double what they are currently, Ghaly said.
Data shows that of shots given, only about 17% were administered in vulnerable communities that have disproportionately been affected by the pandemic.
Double that amount was going to those in the top quarter of what California deems the healthiest communities when measured for education, wages, health care access and transportation, Ghaly said.
Newsom has called equity the state’s “North Star.”
Yet community health clinics focused on serving low-income and vulnerable Californians say they haven’t been getting enough doses.
Ghaly said Thursday that Newsom's administration will work with communities to make sure the vaccine actually ends up in the arms of those patients, not to day-trippers from wealthier ZIP codes who have the time and tech savvy to schedule appointments online.
Newsom said addressing the problem is like playing “whack-a-mole.”
Once 2 million vaccine doses are given out in those neighborhoods, the state will make it easier for counties to move through tiers that dictate business and school reopenings.
With 1.6 million shots administered, he said he expects to hit that target in the next week or two.
Once the state gives out 4 million doses in those neighborhoods, state officials will revise the metrics for reopening sooner.
While race and ethnicity are not explicit factors in designating vaccinations, the 400 vulnerable ZIP codes overlap heavily with neighborhoods with higher populations of Blacks, Latinos and Asian and Pacific Islanders, officials said.