Is California’s Vaccine Distribution Plan Failing to Protect California’s Elderly, The Most At Risk from Covid-19

FILE - In this June 26, 2020, file photo, California Gov. Gavin Newsom listens to a reporter's question during a news conference in Rancho Cordova, Calif. Gov. Newsom is facing a possible recall election as the nation's most populous state struggles to emerge from the coronavirus crisis. Organizers say they have collected more than half of the nearly 1.5 million petition signatures needed to place the recall on the ballot. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, Pool, File)

The facts are stark – age, according to the CDC, is the most determinant factor in death from Covid-19. So why is California ignoring much of this population in its distribution plan of Covid-19 vaccines?

Dr Erica Pan, Acting State Health Officer, leads the vaccine distribution efforts for the State of California. To date the state has announced the first 2 phases of vaccine distribution. The state has prioritized vaccinations of nursing home residents but as yet has failed to address the balance and majority of the state’s elderly who are NOT in nursing homes.

According to the Public Policy Institute, 8.3% of California seniors DO NOT reside in nursing homes. Governor Gavin Newsom’s California Department of Public Health headed by Dr Pan has rightly designated the nursing home residents for early vaccination but has failed to address the other 98.3% of the states elderly. The states Elderly account for roughly 80% of the Covid-19 deaths in California and non-nursing home residents account for half of that 80%. So why has this group been ignored?

Strangely, the presentation for the last meeting Dr Pan chaired on vaccination prioritization failed to even mention elderly not in nursing homes. Failure of her Community Vaccine Advisory Committee to even address this population is startling.

Dr Pan has assembled a Drafting Guidelines Workgroup to assist in vaccine prioritization. It remains to be seen whether Co-Chairperson Dr Oliver Brooks and Co-Chairperson Dr Robert Schechter will address this shortcoming.

The next meeting of Dr Pan’s committee is Monday December 21, 2020 from 3:00 – 6:00pm.

The Public Policy Institute: Even as the senior population has grown with the aging of the baby boom cohort, the number of seniors in nursing homes has remained steady. According to the American Community Survey, about 88,300 seniors, or 1.7% of all seniors in California, live in nursing homes in 2018; that’s about the same number as in 2010 (87,500).

Figure - Little Change in Number of Seniors at California Nursing Homes