Teachers, police officers, childcare workers and those who work in the food sector in San Francisco will be eligible to receive the vaccine against COVID-19 starting in two weeks, Mayor London Breed announced Tuesday.
The announcement comes as San Francisco continues to struggle against a shortage of the vaccine, with distribution averaging about 4,000 shots in arms per day when the goal is more than 10,000.
But Breed called the eligibility expansion set to begin Feb. 24 “good news” and a “really exciting thing.” The expansion is permitted under the state’s vaccination priority guidelines, which gave first priority to health care workers, long-term care residents and those age 65 and over.
City health officials previously stated a goal to vaccinate the more than 900,000 people who live and work in San Francisco by June 30, but supply issues have continued to plague that effort.
“The vaccine supply is still limited,” Breed said.
So even if people are eligible, they may not be able to get an appointment right away, city officials said.
Access to vaccinations for teachers is among the conditions that must be met before schools can reopen before the academic school year ends on June 2, under a tentative deal struck this past weekend between unions and the school district.
But Breed, who has been calling for schools to reopen, said Tuesday that it isn’t realistic to expect schools to open this school year if it’s based on vaccinating teachers first because of the limited supply.
She said health officials say it’s “safe” to return to school without the vaccine, while some teachers have said they fear for their lives if they return before getting vaccinated.
Those eligible to make appointments to receive their vaccines beginning Feb. 24 are those who work in the following sectors: education and childcare; emergency services, such as police officers; and food and agriculture, per state guidelines known as Phase 1B, Tier 1. The food sector includes workers in grocery stores and restaurants.
City officials said that the expanded eligibility includes more than 115,000 individuals who live or work in San Francisco, which is on top of the already eligible 210,000 health care workers and people 65 and older who are currently eligible.
Health officials said that of the approximate 131,000 residents 65 and older, 32.2 percent, or 42,372 have received their first doses, and 2.5 percent their second dose.
There are 97,088 San Francisco residents who have received at least their first dose of the vaccine, 13 percent of The City’s aged over 16 population, which is 764,514 residents, the most recent data shows.
Meanwhile, the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved legislation introduced by Supervisor Matt Haney to require the Department of Public Health to release a public plan detailing how they will meet their vaccination goal and release more data within seven days after the law goes into effect.
Haney has been critical of the rollout of the vaccine, while Breed has defended it.
“I am really proud of the efforts that we put forward thus far,” Breed said, noting the recent launch of mass vaccination sites and smaller community sites.
But important data is still not being released by the department.
There is no vaccination data by race and ethnicity, which would provide oversight to ensure an equitable distribution of the doses. And The City is not reporting daily data around the number of doses received and those administered.
Haney said “there have been many positive developments” but “there are a lot more things that need to be done and things that can be done better that this ordinance will help with.”
“We still do not have details about announced mobile vaccination units,” he added.
Those units are launching “very soon” and each one will be able to administer 150 vaccines per day, said Dr. Grant Colfax, head of the Department of Public Health, at a press conference with Breed.
The progress around vaccines comes as The City has seen a significant drop in new cases after enduring a third surge, the most severe since the pandemic began a year ago.
The City is now averaging 135 newly diagnosed COVID-19 cases per day, a decline from a high of 373 per day last month.
But Colfax warned that residents must remain vigilant in wearing masks and remaining socially distant because cases “in the last several days” have started to rise after a period of decline.