From the Pasadena Star-News:
Monday, Californians age 16 to 64 with underlying conditions can receive the coronavirus vaccine, adding 4.4 million people to the list of eligible people. It’s a population that is particularly vulnerable at any age to suffer the worst of the disease, officials said.
But it also will be “challenging,” officials said, citing a liberal screening process designed to balance the need to verify a person’s condition with the urgency of vaccinating as many people as possible.
Officials caution that just because eligibility begins Monday, it doesn’t mean people will be getting a shot immediately. Though supplies are increasing at hundreds of clinics, pharmacies, mobile sites and pods from Orange County to Los Angeles to San Bernardino, they remain in limited supply.
Vaccines still are being given to millions of health care workers,seniors, front-line workers and teachers, who have priority in the initial phases of the rollout.
In Los Angeles County, 2 million people with underlying conditions will become eligible next week, officials said Friday.
The sheer demand sprung concerns about the extent to which people would be properly screened and whether people would jump the line under the guise of having a medical condition.
VACCINE » PAGE 8
From the Pasadena Star-News:
On Monday, adults with underlying health conditions will be eligible for coronavirus vaccines, opening doors to millions of residents to flood the state’s appointment sites.
For those receiving a vaccine under this qualification, county officials said they were encouraging documentation of a condition, but it was not required. Instead, the minimum threshold was that the resident attest to being at high risk or having a disability that puts them at risk.
“We certainly hope people won’t try to take advantage of the situation,’ L.A. County Department of Public Health Chief Science Officer Dr. Paul Simon said. “We don’t feel like it’s realistic for our staff at the community sites to screen people. We don’t have the medical expertise or the knowledge of the person’s medical history to make that determination. That’s why we’re really urging people to go their provider.”
In essence, officials are leaning on people’s honesty to make it work.
“The reasoning behind self-attestation is that, as you can imagine, it’s going to be really hard to prove or verify individuals having certain kinds of comorbidi-ties,” Orange County Health Care Agency Deputy Director of Public Health Services Margaret Bredehoft said.
People can’t tell someone has diabetes by looking at him, and physicians’ orders and prescriptions come in all kinds of formats, she said, noting there also are privacy concerns with asking people to share their medical records.
Sites from Orange to L.A. counties will continue to check IDs to verify a person’s age, residency or workplace and that they have an appointment.
Relying on people’s honesty could allow some to jump the line and “that’d be my concern,” Regional Center of Orange County Executive Director Larry Landauer said. The center coordinates services for OC residents with developmental disabilities.
“There’s people that absolutely need priority and they should have something from their doctor,” he said.
Landauer said his and other regional centers are working to get a letter approved by the state Department of Public Health that they can distribute to clients showing they’re eligible for vaccination in the phase that opens Monday.
People ages 16-64 are eligible if they have one of these conditions:
• Cancer, current with weakened immune system
• Chronic kidney disease, stage 4 or above
• Chronic pulmonary disease, oxygen dependent
• Down syndrome
• Solid organ transplant, leading to a weakened immune system
• Sickle cell disease
• Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease or cardiomyopathies (but not hypertension)
• Severe obesity (where body mass index is greater than or equal to 40 kg/m2). Check with a doctor to see who qualifies, or try the converter at the CDC website.
• Type 2 diabetes mellitus with hemoglobin A1C level greater than 7.5% State criteria also lays out that a person can be eligible as a result of a developmental or other “significant, high-risk disability,” one or more of the following criteria applies:
• A COVID-19 infection is likely to result in severe life-threatening illness or death.
• Acquiring COVID-19 will limit the individual’s ability to receive ongoing care or services vital to their well-being and survival.
• Providing adequate and timely COVID-19 care will be particularly challenging as a result of the individual’s disability.
State officials said this group would include all enrolled users of regional centers, independent living centers, in-home supportive services, community-based adult services and adult day health centers, Medi-Cal HIV/AIDS waivers, Medi-Cal home and communitybased alternatives waiver programs, Medi-Cal Assisted Living waiver programs, all-inclusive care for the elderly programs, California Children’s Services program (if the child is 16-21 years old) and the California Genetically Handicapped Persons Program.
Under state guidance, confidentiality is protected, so there is no documentation required of a diagnosis or type of disability. But under the state’s guidance, expect to be asked to sign a “self-attestation” that you meet the criteria.
Riverside County spokeswoman Brooke Federico said adults who show up for a vaccine appointment next week will be shown a screening sheet with a list of various illnesses and asked if they fall into one of those categories.
“If the resident answers in the affirmative, they will be vaccinated,” she said via email. “No note from their doctor or copy of medical records are required.”
Residents should make sure they are eligible before scheduling an appointment, Federico said.
“It’s possible appointments will be filled quickly,” she said, adding that more appointments are opened each week as the county receives more vaccine doses.
Getting a vaccine
County public health officials recommend checking with a person’s health provider first. Though supplies are limited, some health systems and their affiliated clinics are vaccinating, and they may have appointments available.
For instance, in San Bernardino County, officials were asking residents to first ask their health care providers about vaccinations, county spokesman David Wert said via email.
If people don’t have a provider, or their provider doesn’t offer vaccinations, people can make an appointment through the county’s vaccination website or hotline, Wert said.
“If they make an appointment at a public vaccination clinic or pharmacy, we are asking them to bring a form of verification of their high-risk medical condition or disability, which mirrors the guidance from the state,” Wert said.
Don’t be surprised if the provider reaches out first.
For example, Kaiser Permanente’s supply continues to increase.
“We will use this increased supply to significantly increase the number of our members we are able to vaccinate,” according to a statement from the giant provider. “Kaiser Permanente has already begun reaching out to our newly eligible members with underlying conditions, starting with those with the highest risk.”
Beyond a health provider, here’s how to get an appointment for those newly eligible:
• Online at the state’s MyTurn system, myturn. ca.gov. People can access the site in English, Spanish, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean and Japanese.
• For those without internet access, call the state’s COVID-19 hotline at 833-4CA-4ALL from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends.
• Book an appointment with a local health department. Not all health departments are connected to the state’s MyTurn site for such appointments. Appointments at San Bernardino County clinics are made through the PrepMod website. In L.A. County, it’s VaccinateLACounty.com. In Orange County: othena. com. Riverside County: myoptumserve.com/covid19. In the city of L.A., it’s, carbonhealth.com.
Check with a local city for more details.
Counties across Southern California are expanding ways to get vaccine to neighborhoods where they are needed most. Mobile unit teams are expanding. For options, state officials recommend checking with a health care provider, local public health department, or local pharmacy.
Simon said the L.A. County is working with health plans and partnering with such groups as Meals on Wheels to identif y homebound people and then direct mobile teams to them. They are also piloting a program in which L.A. Fire Department paramedic would assist in give the vaccination. If that program works, the county could expand to other cities’ fire departments, Simon said.
Like the mobile teams, transit programs also are expanding. For instance, in February Metrolink began offering a direct connection to Los Angeles County’s COVID-19 vaccination site at Cal State L.A. There’s a station located near the new walk-up vaccination center that opened in February. The center is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week.
According to state officials, those receiving Medi-Cal through a managed care plan, contact a plan’s member services to request help for transportation.
For those who get Medi-Cal through Fee-for-Service, they can access a list of Non-Medical Transportation providers in their county of residence. Reporters David Rosenfeld and Alicia Robinson contributed to this report.