California's Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly announced Friday that millions of younger Californians with disabilities and underlying health conditions that put them at risk for severe COVID infections will become eligible for vaccinations starting March 15.

San Francisco had already talked about giving vaccines to people with severe underlying health conditions in Phase 1C, with Phase 1B beginning on February 24. But now the state has endorsed distributing vaccines to a broad swath of the population in just one month's time, at the discretion of healthcare providers.

Eligibility will open March 15 to people aged 16 to 64 with a range of disabilities, and people with cancer, chronic kidney disease at stage 4 or above, chronic pulmonary disease, Down syndrome, a weakened immune system from a solid organ transplant, sickle cell disease, pregnancy, heart conditions, severe obesity — with a Body Mass Index at or over 40 — and Type 2 diabetes.

As KTVU reports, it will ultimately be up to healthcare providers whether patients should be eligible — and the exact criteria and proof of a condition remain a bit unclear. But with 13 million Californians currently eligible for vaccines, this change will make 17 to 19 million people eligible as of March 15, though distribution will still depend on increased supplies of vaccine flowing to the state.

Ghaly explained that the wait until March 15 to include these groups is due to the lack of adequate vaccine supplies.

"I want the disability community to know, we’ve heard you, and we’re going to do more and better to provide access, even with the scarcity," Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday during a visit in San Francisco to the mass-vaccination site at the Moscone Center.

Andrew Imparato, executive director of Disability Rights California, tells the Chronicle, "I am grateful that they committed to a time frame, and if they are estimating the number to be that big (4 million to 6 million more) that is a very good sign."

As of Friday, about 5.5 million Californians have received their first vaccine shots. In San Francisco, 111,637 people were vaccinated with their first shots as of Thursday, which represents 15% of the population over the age of 16. Nearly 31,000 SF residents have received both vaccine doses.

Related: Everyone Over 65 In the Mission, Bernal, and Potrero Can Now Get Drop-In Vaccinations at SF General

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