Which Santa Clara County COVID-19 vaccine tier are you in?
San Jose-based physician Dr. Daljeet Rai, 62, was among the first in Santa Clara County to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at O'Connor Hospital in San Jose. File photo by Vicente Vera.

    The approval of COVID-19 vaccines in the United States is no immediate cure for the pandemic. With Moderna and Pfizer vaccines in short supply, only a select group of people can receive the immunization — at least for now.

    In Santa Clara County, that means health officials must administer vaccines to people in distinct tier groups based on their age, work and risk of exposure to COVID-19. As of Dec. 30, at least 300,696 people received COVID-19 vaccines in California, said Gov. Gavin Newsom.

    Santa Clara County has received more than 94,805 COVID-19 vaccines, plus additional doses to multi-county health care providers such as Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Health as of Dec. 31.

    Those receiving the vaccine now are primarily health care workers, older residents of assisted living facilities and other essential workers who cannot work from home.

    The general public will likely have to wait until spring or summer to access vaccines.

    California public health officials have divided priority groups into multiple phases and sub-tiers.

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    Phase 1A

    Santa Clara County health officials say they only have enough vaccines to cover the first two bullets of workers in Tier 1 throughout the next few weeks. Non-clinical staff at these facilities, such as hospital room cleaners, interpreters and patient transporters, should also have priority access.

    If vaccines are too scarce to supply to every worker, state health officials suggest rationing vaccines by the age of each worker, first to workers 65 years and older, then to workers 55-64 and finally to workers younger than 55 years.

    Tier 1: 

    • Workers at acute care, psychiatric and correctional facility hospitals
    • Workers at skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities
    • Elderly or medically vulnerable residents of skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities and similar long-term care settings
    • Paramedics, EMTs and others providing emergency medical services
    • Workers at dialysis centers

    Tier 2:

    • Workers at intermediate care facilities for persons who need non-continuous nursing supervision and supportive care
    • Home health care and in-home supportive service workers
    • Community health workers, including promotoras, lay Latino community members who provide basic health education.
    • Public health field staff
    • Primary Care clinics, including Federally Qualified Health Centers, Rural Health Centers, correctional facility clinics and urgent care clinics

    Tier 3

    • Specialty clinics
    • Laboratory workers
    • Dental and other oral health clinics
    • Pharmacy staff not working in settings at higher tiers

    Phase 1B (under consideration)

    The state’s community vaccine advisory committee proposed new guidelines for who should receive vaccines after health care workers and residents of acute care facilities.

    These priority groups are made of seniors and frontline workers at-risk of exposure to coronavirus because they are unable to work from home in areas hardest-hit by COVID-19. However, people will have to wait several weeks to access these vaccines.

    Tier 1:

    • Anyone over the age of 75
    • Education and child care workers
    • Food and agriculture workers, which includes grocery store employees and field workers

    Tier 2:

    • Anyone over the age of 65 with underlying health conditions
    • Critical transportation and manufacturing workers
    • Incarcerated people
    • Homeless people

    Phase 1C (under consideration)

    Tier 1:

    • Anyone 16-64 years old with underlying health conditions or disabilities
    • Workers in water and waste management, energy, chemicals and defense
    • Workers in IT and financial services
    • Community service providers

    Have a question about COVID-19 vaccines? Email [email protected] and we’ll get the answer.

    Contact Mauricio La Plante at [email protected] or follow @mslaplantenews on Twitter.

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