San Mateo County announced Thursday it will open vaccine eligibility to the next phase of residents starting Feb. 22. That includes first responders, food and agriculture workers and teachers and child care providers.

The decision comes after the county had previously said it would stick to vaccinating just residents 65 and older — in addition to health care workers and long-term care residents — because of high death rates among the older population. The county has now reversed that position, and starting Feb. 22, anyone included in the state’s “1B” tier will be eligible to receive a vaccine through their health care provider or federal, state or county vaccine programs.

At this week’s San Mateo County Board of Supervisors meeting, Health Chief Louise Rogers said vaccine supply had been holding the county back from opening eligibility to new groups.

“The challenge that we face is moving into those groups means that … there’s only so much vaccine to go around,” Rogers said.

According to the county’s press release, waiting until later this month allows more people in the 65 and older group to get their shots before overloading the system with an influx of eligible people.

Rogers estimated an additional 40,000 people fall into the 1B categories, with around 15,000 in education, 2,100 in law enforcement, 1,600 farmworkers and 21,000 workers in other childcare and food services.

Vaccination programs across the county are beginning to ramp up, with private health care providers offering shots to their patients and the county helping run mass vaccination clinics each week.

County health official Anand Chabra said last week’s San Mateo Events Center clinic got nearly 6,000 doses in arms, and this week’s is set to get second doses to more than 9,500 health care workers. Next week, the county will partner again with Dignity Health to distribute second doses to 4,500 of their members and staff, in addition to running programs at San Francisco International Airport and in Daly City. Chabra also announced this week that the county has contracted with health care company Carbon Health to run future sites.

Overall, more than 84,000 people have been vaccinated in the county, making up just over 13 percent of the 16-and-above population. Nearly 20,000 county residents have gotten both their shots.

At this week’s Board of Supervisors meeting, county officials called for high-risk essential workers to get vaccines as soon as possible. Supervisor Carole Groom spoke up on behalf of grocery store and mail delivery workers, while Supervisor Dave Pine called for priority for teachers. Supervisor Don Horsley advocated for a targeted approach to reach farmworkers living in rural areas.

Both Horsley and Board President David Canepa also spoke in favor of vaccinating police officers who come in contact with the public often.

“We need to protect the people that protect us,” Canepa said.

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