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California To Give 40% Of Vaccine Doses To Vulnerable Areas

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA/AP) — California will begin setting aside 40% of all vaccine doses for some of the state's most vulnerable neighborhoods in an effort to inoculate people most at risk from the coronavirus and get the state's economy open more quickly.

To address a low vaccination rate among East LA residents St. John's Well Child and Family Center opens a COVID-19 vaccination site
Los Angeles, CA - March 03: Jaimie Mitchell, left, screens residents arriving for COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination site opened by St. John's Well Child and Family Center at East Los Angeles Civic Center on Wednesday, March 3, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA.(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Two officials in Gov. Gavin Newsom's administration shared details Wednesday on condition of anonymity.

The doses will be spread out among 400 ZIP codes where about 8 million people are eligible for shots, with many of the neighborhoods are concentrated in Los Angeles County and the Central Valley.

Once 2 million vaccine doses are given out in those neighborhoods, the state will make it easier for counties to move through reopening tiers that dictate business and school reopenings.

Currently, a county can move from the most restrictive purple tier to the lower red tier based on several metrics, including having 7 or fewer new COVID cases per 100,000 people per day over a period of several weeks. That metric will change to 10 new cases or fewer.

In the red tier, businesses like restaurants and gyms can open for indoor services at limited capacity.

About 1.6 million vaccine doses have already been given in those 400 ZIP codes, and the state will hit the 2 million mark in the next week or two, officials said.

Once the state gives out 4 million doses in those neighborhoods, it will revise the metrics for getting into the even less restrictive orange and yellow tiers.

The changes mark a fresh round of twists in California's vaccination and reopening plans. Now half of California's vaccine doses will be reserved for specific groups, as educators get a guaranteed 10%. People age 65 and over, farmworkers and emergency service workers are also eligible for shots.

Earlier Wednesday, Newsom hinted at the plan while touring a vaccination site at Cal State Long Beach.

He said that he was hopeful the addition of the Johnson & Johnson single-shot vaccine would soon allow counties to move through the tier system faster.

"We want to incorporate vaccination rates into the tiering, and that will allow people to move more quickly through the tiers," he said. "But we're not resetting the tiers."

More counties have already been moving into the red tier as caseloads, hospitalizations and deaths drop. The state's average 2.2% test positivity rate over 7 days is a record low.

Officials are making it easier to move through reopening tiers because the likelihood of widespread transmission that can overwhelm hospitals will decrease as more people are vaccinated. That's particularly true as the most vulnerable populations that are more likely to get seriously ill receive the shots.

While race and ethnicity is not an explicit factor in designating vaccinations, the 400 vulnerable ZIP codes overlap heavily with neighborhoods with higher populations of Blacks, Latinos and Asian and Pacific Islanders, officials said.

The news comes as Los Angeles County announced its first case of the COVID-19 variant first detected in Brazil. Health officials said that while the county could move into the red tier of reopening as early as next week, they would not immediately be lifting coronavirus-related restrictions.

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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