UCSD to begin vaccinating San Diegans 65 and older against COVID-19

UC San Diego Health will begin vaccinating older patients against COVID-19 on Wednesday, marking the beginning of a new phase in the region’s vaccine rollout.

Members of the health system who are 65 or older and have medical conditions that make them vulnerable to the coronavirus are being contacted to schedule vaccination appointments, with the first shots going into arms Wednesday afternoon.

“Patients are asked to wait for their vaccination invitations to avoid overwhelming phone lines and to accommodate ongoing services and care,” said UCSD in a statement. “Eligible patients will be contacted as soon as possible, based on availability of vaccine.”

The plan is to initially immunize 500 patients a day. And with vaccine demand exceeding supply, those doses will go to patients whose medical history makes them especially vulnerable to COVID-19. UCSD did not specify which pre-existing conditions would be considered, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that there’s strong evidence cancer and various forms of lung, kidney and heart disease increase a person’s risk for COVID-19 hospitalization and death.

The region’s two largest systems — Scripps and Sharp — said in statements issued Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, that they don’t yet have enough vaccine to begin immunizing patients. A spokesperson for Alvarado Hospital Medical Center and Paradise Valley Hospital told The San Diego Union-Tribune both hospitals are also still focused on inoculating their frontline health care workers.

For the moment, vaccine doses are still mostly going to San Diego County’s nursing home residents and health care workers, the state’s highest-priority vaccination group. About 620,000 residents fall into this group, and the region has only immunized about 80,000, though county officials say this is likely an underestimate.

Recent federal and state guidelines now mean that more than 473,000 San Diego County residents 65 and older are eligible for vaccine — assuming their health care provider has the doses. The county plans to focus on inoculating health care workers at its mass vaccination site near Petco Park until the week of Jan. 25, according to public health officer Dr. Wilma Wooten.

Older adults are especially vulnerable to the coronavirus. About 15 percent of San Diego County residents age 80 and older who’ve gotten COVID-19 have died — more than one in seven.

UCSD is asking patients who want to stay up-to-date with the health system’s vaccine rollout to visit health.ucsd.edu/coronavirus/Pages/vaccine.aspx

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