Older, at-risk Californians still need vaccine appointments

"I've found out the hard way that being eligible isn't the same as being vaccinated," said Anthony. "It's just stress. I don't need the stress."

Video Transcript

KATE LARSEN: Despite eligibility expanding, many older and at risk Californians are still waiting to get their vaccine, even after they became eligible weeks ago. ABC 7 News reporter Kate Larsen is part of our vaccine team and explains the challenge.

ANTHONY RHODY: CVS pharmacies, Moscone directly.

KATE LARSEN: San Francisco resident Anthony Rhody has pages of notes, documenting the hours of effort he's put into finding a COVID vaccine.

ANTHONY RHODY: The unpaid part-time job.

KATE LARSEN: Anthony just turned 60 and has been living with AIDS for 25 years. Because of his health conditions, he's been eligible for weeks.

ANTHONY RHODY: I've found out the hard way that being eligible isn't the same as being vaccinated. It's just stress, you know? I don't need the stress.

KATE LARSEN: And now with eligibility expanded, many California doctors are concerned that stories, like Anthony's, will become more common.

LOUISE ARONSON: I'm a little frustrated. Yes, I think, if we knew for certain we were getting a great deal more of vaccine, it would make more sense to me.

KATE LARSEN: Dr. Louise Aronson is the leading geriatrician at UCSF. She's on the state committee that drafted the vaccine priority groups, but the work group was disbanded this week, Aronson says, without being consulted about the new eligibility timeline.

LOUISE ARONSON: It reminds me a little bit of when we had said it was 75 and up, and then the governor said it was 65 and up. And that meant the people at the highest risk, some of them had to wait a little longer. So there is, as always with politics, a tension between pleasing people, which includes for economic reasons and just for maybe you're facing a recall.

KATE LARSEN: The California Department of Public Health tells ABC 7 that because President Biden asked that all Americans be eligible for vaccines by May 1, it ended the committee's work. CDPH also says they expect a large influx of vaccines with 2.5 million doses weekly in early April, and later, more than three million weekly doses.

ANTHONY RHODY: I'm going to be paying attention.

KATE LARSEN: And while at the food bank, Anthony did get signed up for a vaccine at Moscone.

ANTHONY RHODY: OK, I'll believe it when I see it. OK, if nothing goes wrong, I'll be there Friday.

KATE LARSEN: OK, so this is some tough advice. Dr. Aronson says, just because you may be eligible for the vaccine starting tomorrow or in two weeks doesn't mean you should actually go and get it. And she says, because so many high risk Californians still need the vaccine, she suggests people who are young, healthy, and still working from home to hang on a little longer to make sure those who need the vaccine most have access. In the newsroom, I'm Kate Larsen. Back to you.

- OK.