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California and Florida Prepare to Give Vaccine Access to All Adults


California will open up vaccine eligibility on April 1 to any resident who is 50 or older, and will expand that to residents 16 or older on April 15, state officials announced on Thursday, saying they could do so because of increasing supplies of vaccine from the federal government. Florida announced similar steps earlier in the day.

California will also allow health care providers to use their discretion to vaccinate family members of eligible people right away, even if the family members would not yet otherwise be eligible, Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement.

State officials said they expect California to start receiving 2.5 million doses a week in the first part of April, and more than 3 million by the second half of the month, a major increase from the current pace of about 1.8 million doses a week.

Mr. Newsom has been under intense pressure for weeks to speed up the state’s vaccination efforts. Experts say his ability to fend off a recall campaign hinges on vaccinating millions of residents and lifting remaining restrictions, so that the state will be closer to normal when voters are asked to decide his fate.

The governor has repeatedly said that short and unpredictable supplies have been to blame for what has been criticized as a confusing and chaotic vaccination process that has left many poorer communities to lag behind.

State officials abruptly announced earlier this month that 40 percent of the state’s new vaccine doses would go to vulnerable communities, but the move frustrated local officials in the Bay Area, which had almost none of the prioritized communities.

Dr. Jeffrey V. Smith, the Santa Clara County executive, recently described the program as “a fake equity plan.” But Mayor Vicente Sarmiento of Santa Ana, the seat of Orange County and home to many lower-income Latinos, praised the plan.

Earlier on Thursday, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida announced that any state resident who is 40 or older would be eligible starting on Monday, and that the minimum age would drop to 18 on April 5.

Alaska, Mississippi, Utah and West Virginia are the only states where all adults are now eligible to receive shots, but many more have announced plans to expand eligibility on or before May 1, a goal set by President Biden. Some local jurisdictions have also begun vaccinating all adults.

More than most states, Florida has emphasized age, rather than occupation or other risk factors, in its approach to vaccine eligibility. The state began by concentrating on seniors 65 and over, and then lowered the age threshold to 50. As of Wednesday, 24 percent of Florida’s total population has received at least one shot, and 14 percent are fully vaccinated, according to a New York Times analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The number of new virus cases reported in Florida has been hovering around 4,600 a day in recent weeks, a level that health officials say is still too high, even though it has fallen significantly from a peak earlier this year.

The state’s efforts to reopen its tourism industry have led to potential problems. In Miami Beach, local officials have been overwhelmed with spring break revelers who have ignored safety precautions like mask wearing and social distancing, to the point that the city imposed a curfew and sent police officers in riot gear to disperse crowds.

The number of new cases nationally has also plateaued recently, adding more urgency to vaccination efforts as variants spread. The nation is averaging about 2.5 million doses of vaccine going into arms each day. At that pace, about half of the nation’s population would be at least partially vaccinated by mid-May.



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