Orange County residents 50 and older are now eligible for the coronavirus vaccine, regardless of medical conditions, as county officials, hospitals and local health clinics are ramping up efforts to get more shots into the community. 

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“Just because you allow the access doesn’t mean everybody can rush and get a reservation and get scheduled to get [the shot].  And remember our biggest constraint continues to be manufactured supply,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said at a Thursday news conference in Los Angeles. 

But it could take months before everyone can get the shot because of supply constraints, especially as a majority of residents will qualify for the vaccine in two weeks when vaccinations open for everyone 16 and older, regardless of medical conditions.

“We’re confident we can deliver on that as long as the manufactured supply comes into the state of California,” Newsom said. 

He told reporters it’s “going to take a number of months for us to exhaust that demand” and later added, “it shouldn’t be more than a few months” before a majority of people are vaccinated.

Big vaccine distributors, like Kaiser Permanente, are gearing up to meet the increasing demand. 

“We are currently administering more than 400,000 vaccine doses every week in California, and we can do even more – all we need are more vaccine doses. To date, we have administered more than 1.9 million vaccines in California to both Kaiser Permanente members as well as those in the communities we serve,” said Dr. Nancy Gin, regional medical director of Quality and Clinical Analysis at Kaiser Permanente. 

In a Thursday email, Gin said Kaiser won’t be able to pre-schedule ahead of the eligibility dates, like for April 15, when everyone 16 and older will qualify. 

Kaiser has distributed roughly 130,000 doses in Orange County so far. 

Local health clinics are also looking forward to vaccinating more people as restrictions ease. 

Alex Rossel, CEO of Families Together of Orange County, said the changes will let the clinics vaccinate more of the hardest hit communities.

“There’s not much restrictions on the category so we can work more easily with our partners,” Rossel said, adding they’ve been targeting restaurant workers, people at homeless shelters, farm workers and other frontline employees. 

He also said the efforts depending on keeping the vaccine supply chain flowing, but some of his concerns have been eased.

“We don’t know, so far, how much the allocation is going to be. So there’s still a lot of unknowns, but I feel better this week because we have a contract and we have [direct federal allocations] lined up,” Rossel said, referring to the Blue Shield contract required to stay in the statewide distribution system. 

So far, Families Together of Orange County has distributed over 20,000 doses to the county’s most vulnerable residents.

Meanwhile, hospitals saw a decline in patients today.

As of Thursday, 131 people were hospitalized, including 22 in intensive care units, according to the county Health Care Agency.

That’s the lowest it’s been in almost a year. 

The virus has now killed 4,755 people — more than eight times what the flu kills on a yearly average.

COVID deaths have now surpassed average yearly cancer deaths in OC. 

It’s also killed more than heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and strokes do on a yearly average, respectively. 

Orange County has averaged around 20,000 deaths a year since 2016, including 543 annual flu deaths, according to state health data.

Last year, more than 24,400 OC residents died, according to the latest state health data.

According to the state death statistics, cancer kills over 4,600 people, heart disease kills over 2,800, more than 1,400 die from Alzheimer’s disease and strokes kill over 1,300 people.

Here’s the latest on the virus numbers across Orange County from county data:
Infections | Hospitalizations & Deaths | City-by-City Data

Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC staff reporter. You can reach him at Follow him on Twitter @SpencerCustodio

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