People with severe illness, disabilities eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccine

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

"Getting him vaccinated was something that was important to me and my family," said Rudy Cruz. He visited a vaccination clinic in Northeast Fresno Monday to get Richard, his 26-year-old son with autism, vaccinated.

"Today was the first day in the tier that we were able to get him vaccinated, so we wanted to come on down and make sure we're doing our part," Cruz said.

Cruz and his wife are Richard's caretakers, so they were already vaccinated. They were just waiting for Richard to be eligible.

Cruz says Richard is at high risk because he has autism as well as asthma and a seizure disorder.

Richard is among the many with medical conditions that make them more vulnerable.

"Those people, if they get COVID, they are about 10 times more likely to die from COVID, unfortunately, so we are really are trying to protect those who are most at risk," said Dr. Kenny Banh, the Director of UCSF Fresno Mobile Heal COVID Equity Project.

Starting Monday, people 16 to 64 years old can get vaccinated if they are deemed to be at the very highest risk to get very sick from COVID-19 due to one or more of the qualifying severe health conditions:

  • Chronic kidney disease, stage 4 or above
  • Chronic pulmonary disease, oxygen dependent
  • Down syndrome
  • Solid organ transplant, leading to a weakened immune system
  • Pregnancy
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies (but not hypertension)
  • Severe obesity (Body Mass Index 40 kg/m2)
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus with hemoglobin A1c level greater than 7.5%

Also eligible, 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. However, 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 is people without doctors, people who don't have access to the medical care system. And we're talking about equity and getting vaccines and a project like ours, it's a huge barrier to a lot of those patients," said Dr. Banh.

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 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," Cruz said.

If you have a severe health condition that you believe puts you at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19, health officials said 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 the illnesses listed.
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