People with severe illness, disabilities eligible to receive vaccine

Eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine expanded across the state Monday, allowing more people to get their COVID-19 shot.

Video Transcript

- Action News reporter Jessica Harrington is in the studio now to explain the new eligibility requirements, and what this opportunity means for people with health conditions who have been living in fear of getting sick from the virus. Jessica?

JESSICA HARRINGTON: Well, a long line of cars today at the vaccination clinic we visited in Northeast Fresno. Some people were there to get their second dose of the vaccine, but others who are at high risk of becoming very sick from COVID-19, finally, able to relax a bit now that they can get vaccinated.

RUDY CRUZ: Getting him vaccinated was something that was important to me and my family.

- Rudy Cruz was one of hundreds of people who line up at the COVID vaccination clinic in Northeast Fresno, Monday. He was there to get his 26-year-old son Richard vaccinated.

- He has autism, so today was his first day of the tier that we were able to get him vaccinated. So I wanted to come on down and make sure that we're doing our part.

- Cruz and his wife are Richard's caretakers, so they've already been vaccinated. They were just waiting for Richard to be eligible. Cruz said, Richard is at high risk, because he has autism, as well as asthma and a seizure disorder. He's among the many with medical conditions that make them more vulnerable.

KENNY BANH: Those people, if they get COVID, they're about 10 times more likely to die from COVID unfortunately. So we really are trying to protect those who are most at risk.

- People 16 to 64 years old can now get vaccinated, if they have a severe health condition, including cancer, down syndrome, sickle cell disease, pregnancy, or severe obesity. Also, eligible are people with disabilities or illnesses who are likely to develop severe, life threatening illness or death from a COVID-19 infection. At Fresno County vaccination clinics, a doctor's note is required to get vaccinated. But if you can't get one of those, you can complete a self attestation form. You do not have to identify the health condition you have. You just need to check the box that applies and sign the document.

- If you require a doctor's note, for instance, then who can't get it? It's people without doctors. People don't have access to the medical care system, and we're talking about equity and getting vaccines in a project, like ours. It's a huge barrier to a lot of those patients.

- For Cruz, Monday was a turning point. His son was the last adult in his family waiting to get vaccinated. Now, they're looking forward to spending Easter together with less concern about getting sick.

- Hopefully, you know, getting him vaccinated, and everybody just getting back to the little bit of normality. Slowly, but surely, doors will open back up, and we'll be able to get back to resuming our lives as normal as possible.

- Now, if you have a severe health condition that you believe puts you at a higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19, health officials say, you should talk to your doctor. Based on the new criteria, your doctor can advocate on your behalf and write you a note to make you eligible to get the vaccine, even if you don't have one of those illnesses listed. In studio, Jessica Harrington, ABC 30 Action News.