California Governor Gavin Newsom has pledged that at least 1 million residents will be receiving COVID-19 vaccines over the next nine days as the state continues to see new infections multiply.
Newsom announced the plan to accelerate what has been a slow rollout of the vaccines during a Friday news conference. The Democratic governor said that although the state still prioritizing doses to those in the greatest need during initial phases, such as front-line medical workers, more “flexibility” was being used in determining groups eligible for the vaccines.
“We have a specific goal of a million vaccinations in the next 10 days that we want to administer,” Newsom said before later clarifying that he had meant to say nine days. “That’s part of our vaccination plan.”
Newsom promised that there would be a “substantially higher number of vaccines administered in the coming days and coming weeks.” California had initially hoped to vaccinate 2 million by the end of 2020. The state fell well short of meeting the target. Only around 2.1 million had been vaccinated nationally by the end of the year.
The have been 584,366 Californians who received their first of two vaccine doses as of Friday, while 2.3 million doses had been distributed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID Data Tracker. Newsom said that he should be held “accountable” if the target to quickly vaccinate 1 million is not met.
“We recognize some of the bottlenecks,” Newsom said. “It’s not unique to California, quite the contrary. I’m talking to governors across the country … at the end of the day, the governor takes responsibility… and I happily accept it.”
The governor said the state would be spending $372 million to improve vaccine distribution, with the money taken from an emergency fund. Part of the money will be used on community outreach efforts, Newsom said.
The more than 2.5 million cases that have been reported in California since the pandemic began are by far the most of any U.S. state, although the state is further down the list when accounting for population size. The state had reported 28,538 related deaths as of Friday, one of the highest death tolls in the nation.
Getting Californians vaccinated quickly will remain a priority while the virus continues to surge through the state. There were 50,030 new cases reported on Friday, exceeding the 50,000 mark for the fourth time ever, while another 493 deaths were also recorded.
While the nation has largely remained focused on fallout from conspiracy-fueled supporters of President Donald Trump violently storming the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, COVID-19 has continued to rage throughout the country.
Nationally, a record-breaking 4,085 new deaths caused by the virus were recorded on Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University. New cases continued to be added at a staggering rate as well, with 274,703 reported on the same day.
California has not been alone in failing to meet vaccination distribution goals, with far fewer vaccines being available than many anticipated. Trump had vowed that 100 million does would be available by the end of 2020. A far smaller 22.1 million doses had been distributed, with only 6.6 million receiving their first doses, as of Friday.
Newsweek reached out to Newsom’s office for comment.
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