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UC San Diego Health begins vaccinating patients 65 and older

Those patients at high risk for severe COVID-19 infection are the first to receive direct invitations to set up a vaccination appointment.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — As vaccine supplies continue to remain in scarce supply, almost all local health providers are still vaccinating those in "Phase 1a" of the rollout process. 

A few lucky San Diegans 65 and over, though, who fall into the next phase of the rollout, are now able to get their first shot.

Already, UC San Diego Health has administered the first COVID vaccine shots to its nearly 10,000 employees, with a goal now of eventually vaccinating 500 patients a day, as more supplies become available.

"I feel so blessed to get it," said one of those patients, directly after receiving her injection. 

Late this week, UC San Diego Health became the first health system in the county to expand into the first tier of phase 1B of the vaccine rollout, beginning to vaccinate those 65 and over.

"It means the start of hopefully the end of this COVID-19 crisis," said Donald Crawford. He received a text message from UC San Diego Health, directly inviting him to sign up for an appointment through his electronic medical record. 

Eligible patients will receive a direct invitation to be vaccinated through their electronic medical record or a direct call from their health care provider.

"I opened it up and there it said: you can get the vaccine,"  Crawford added, "Here's the dates available, and I picked as soon as possible."

As vaccine supplies are still extremely limited, UC San Diego Health says it is first contacting those patients at high risk for severe COVID-19 infection and who have more than one underlying health condition.

"It's wonderful," said Dalia Talamantez, another UC San Diego Health patient. "I am absolutely delighted I was able to get it this soon."

Talamantez is one of the fortunate ones.

At a new vaccination site in Imperial Beach, which will eventually ramp up to offering 500 doses a day, only those in phase 1A, health care workers, as well as nursing home staff and residents, are being offered the opportunity to make an appointment for a vaccine.

Some senior citizens who tried showing up with no appointment Friday had to be turned away.

"We want to make sure that people have the services that they deserve, and we want to make it easy and accessible for them," said County Supervisor Nora Vargas, 

That accessibility depends on the supply of vaccines.

On Friday, governors across the country learned that the Trump administration is now walking back promises to ship out tens of millions of vaccine reserves to all states, conceding that that "stockpile" had already been shipped out earlier.

Speaking from Dodger stadium, where a new vaccination "supersite" capable of administering 12,000 shots a day is stationed, Governor Gavin Newsom said his priority is getting out all the doses California does currently have

"We still have a lot of work to do in that space," Newsom said, "We look forward to getting more will help us and our planning and our distribution."