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CDPH Updates COVID-19 Vaccine Eligibility Guidelines

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On March 11, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued three documents updating its guidance on prioritizing individuals for the COVID-19 vaccine. In addition to providing important clarifications on the implementation of vaccines for people with high-risk medical conditions or disabilities, the guidance adds categories of individuals in specified settings who are eligible to be vaccinated due to their increased risk. 

First, CDPH updated its Provider Bulletin to add the following individuals to those eligible to be vaccinated beginning March 15:   

  • Individuals who reside or work in a high-risk congregate residential setting, such as an incarceration/detention facility, homeless shelter, or behavioral health facility, including all people experiencing homelessness, who are at risk of transitioning into congregate settings at short notice 
  • Public transit/airport and commercial airlines (but not private airplanes). These new categories of eligible individuals are added to those who had earlier been prioritized for vaccination beginning March 15, including those at the very highest risk for morbidity and mortality from COVID-19 as a direct result of one or more specified severe health conditions, and individuals with developmental or other severe high-risk disabilities meeting specified criteria. 

The second document issued by CDPH is a Health Care Information Notice directed to licensed clinicians. This notice requests that licensed clinicians reach out to their patients who meet the eligibility requirements for a COVID-19 vaccine on March 15 specified in the notice (those with high-risk medical conditions or disabilities) to advise them of their vaccine eligibility. It also clarifies the eligibility of those with developmental or other significant, high-risk disability by providing examples of those who fall within that category, including: 

  • People with serious mental illness or serious substance use disorder 
  • Enrolled consumers of regional centers, independent living centers, In Home Supportive Services, community-based adult services/adult day health centers, Medi-Cal HIV/AIDS Waiver, Medi-Cal Home and Community-Based Alternatives Waiver, Medi-Cal Assisted Living Waiver, Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, California Children’s Services Program (if the child is 16-21 years old), and California Genetically Handicapped Persons Program   

Third, CDPH posted a Fact Sheet directed to the general public that provides information for people who are eligible for the vaccine due to their high-risk medical conditions or disabilities. The fact sheet answers a number of frequently asked questions, including how these people can get a vaccine (through their health care provider, pharmacies, local health department, community pop-up clinics, or My Turn), whether they will need to verify that they have a high-risk medical condition or disability when they go to their appointment (no, self-attestation is all that is required), and accessibility and transportation questions.