COVID-19 vaccine eligibility in SLO County opens up to cancer patients

Posted at 7:54 PM, Mar 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-12 01:38:51-05

More people are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in San Luis Obispo County. Local doctors say that’s good news for people with severe medical conditions or disabilities.

County health officials say an additional 40,000 workers and high-risk individuals will now be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

That includes those in food and agriculture, education and childcare workers, people working in emergency services, and those with certain high-risk medical conditions or disabilities.

“So anyone 16-64 who would otherwise not be eligible, who have certain health care conditions or are medically vulnerable by virtue of disability may now also make an appointment,” said San Luis Obispo County Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein.

That includes:

  • Cancer, current with weakened immune system
  • 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%

Oncologist Dr. Tom Spillane of SLO Oncology and Hematology Health Center says this is great news for his patients.

"Frequent questions I get asked is, 'how do I get the vaccine?' and really up until yesterday, we didn't have an answer but now we know that you can go to the SLO website to register,” Dr. Spillane said.

He says some patients have shared their concerns about taking the vaccine, but he’s encouraging those who can get it to do so.

"Even though I think people are a little bit weary and scared about getting a vaccine, I’m trying to encourage our patients to go ahead and get it because I think it is in their best interest because we know that if they do get infected with the virus, they are not going to do as well as someone who doesn't have cancer,” he said.

Now that the vaccine is opened up to so many more people, Dr. Borenstein asks the public to be patient when attempting to make an appointment.

This change comes after the department noticed a drop in demand for vaccines in the previously eligible sectors.

"So I think recognizing cancer patients is really important, so I give Penny Borenstein and all of her staff credit for making this happen,” Dr. Spillane said.

Public health officials say for those who are eligible because of a medical condition or disability, they will be asked to self-attest to their condition.