As both California and San Francisco extended vaccine eligibility Monday to those who are 16 to 64 and have certain health conditions or disabilities, UCSF researchers and the Latino Task Force reported on testing and vaccination efforts showing a much-improved outlook citywide.
“There are fewer cases, fewer hospitalizations and more people getting vaccinated,” said Dr. Diane Havlir, the lead UCSF researcher on the collaboration with the Latino Task Force known as Unidos en Salud.
The Unidos vaccination site at Capp and 24th Street has increased its vaccinations to 400 a day to prepare for the expanded eligibility, which Havlir called “progress towards universal access to vaccination.”
The newly eligible as of Monday, per state guidelines, include those with conditions such as cancer, heart disease, Down syndrome, and diabetes and as well as those who live in a congregate care facility.
San Francisco has joined other Bay Area counties to expand the requirements even more to those with HIV, people with a body mass index greater than 30, and homeless residents.
To keep the rollout “low-barrier,” San Francisco vaccination sites will not require proof or documentation of these conditions, the mayor’s office said.
William Jarrold, a 54-year-old Mission resident, was one of the first in line at the 24th and Capp Street site.
“My wife is a primary care provider, my mother-in-law has diabetes and is 70-something, I’ve got two kids. But those aren’t official reasons. The qualifying one is asthma,” Jarrold said.
“I feel incredulous that it’s this soon,” he said on a day that marks the one-year anniversary eve of the city’s announcement that San Francisco would be shutting down to shelter in place . “It’s the light at the end of the tunnel.”
But as supply still remains below the surging demand, both state and local officials cautioned that not everyone who qualifies will get it quickly. Locally, health providers have been notified to prioritize those with second dose appointments, Mayor London Breed said in a statement.
Roughly 10 percent of San Franciscans identify as deaf or disabled, a press statement from the mayor’s office said. About 4.4. million Californians fall under the newest high-risk category, meaning shots “will not immediately be available to all who are eligible,” according to the California Department of Public Health.
Jay, 25, was near the front of the waitlist line on Monday morning. She said her elderly mother and neighbor were both high-risk and had appointments set up, but Jay hoped to snag her first dose as a caretaker for them. “I do all the groceries for them, live with my mom, and take care of them,” she said. “The sooner I’m protected, the better. It will be a weight off my shoulders.”
At about 9:30 a.m. on Monday at 24th and Capp Streets, the approximately 10 people in line who had scheduled appointments were all receiving their final dose. And, the majority of those in line to sign up for a dose at 24th and Capp on Monday morning appeared to be left over from other categories such as age or essential work.
Miguel, 63, said he was prompted to put his name on the vaccine registry because he caters food. He didn’t know essential workers were eligible until today, when he passed by the vaccine waitlist line on 24th Street and asked a volunteer about it. This was convenient as he doesn’t have health insurance, he said.
Troy, a 28-year-old Tenderloin resident, serves at the high-end Japanese restaurant Roka Akor in the Financial District and said his work makes him nervous about contracting Covid-19. “It’s just a worry, I worry quite a bit,” he said. “I’ve heard about people getting sick in the restaurant business, and dying, and not wearing masks. It’s got me scrunched up a bit.”
Two restaurant workers in line on Sunday said their employers had sent them. “They gave us the information, but did not obligate us to get it,” said Conseulo.
Anita, also in line on Sunday, said her husband had gotten his vaccination first — that made her feel more comfortable, so she decided it was time to get her own appointment.
In addition to giving vaccinations at Capp Street, the location has become a navigation site for residents who find online registration difficult or for those who do not have insurance. In addition to the 400 vaccinations a day it is now giving out, the site also shuttles more than 200 people a day to Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, many of which are for same-day shots. And, it can set up appointments for residents elsewhere.
Since Feb. 1, the site has vaccinated 4,532 residents and sent 1,648 to ZSFGH. More than 60 percent of those it attends are Latinx.
Unidos en Salud also continues to test for the virus at 24th Street. On Sunday, 201 residents tested at the 24th Street BART station.
“We were 14 percent in January and now we’re in the two percent range here in March,” said Havlir.
In addition to testing, Dr. Joe DeRisi, the co-president of the Chan Zuckerberg Lab, has continued to sequence the positive results from 24th Street and offered some optimistic news Monday on the variants.
Despite predictions to the contrary, the U.K. variant has not taken off in the Mission or San Francisco and the West Coast variants have been fairly stable. Still, he cautioned: “We need to remain vigilant. We need to keep testing and we need to aggressively keep going after these things, but what we have not seen is a large-scale spread of this highly transmissible U.K. variant, as was predicted,” DeRisi said.
While the West Coast variant has increased, he added, “We do not believe that it is any more dangerous. There is no difference between the number of people with symptoms or without, and there is no excess hospitalizations with that strain.”
And, best of all, a recent study, he said, shows “that basically the blood from people who were vaccinated effectively neutralizes essentially all the strains…It’s basically that if you get vaccinated, you will be protected. “
Vaccinations at Capp Street run Sundays through Wednesday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and testing runs at the 24th Street BART station from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.