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How Will CA Vaccine Sites Verify Qualifying Medical Conditions? They'll Take Your Word For It

A syringe is filled with a dose of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination site at Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza on March 11, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Patrick T. FALLON / AFP)
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March 15 is a much-awaited day for Californians with medical conditions and disabilties deemed high-risk for COVID-19 – it's the day they'll finally be able to make an appointment to get the vaccine.

But there is an elephant in the room that a lot of people might be unclear on: How will vaccine administrators verify these very specific medical conditions once people with appointments get to the vaccine sites?

Unlike doctors' offices, vaccination sites (often staffed by volunteers) don't have access to private medical records... and requiring them in order to receive a vaccination could be considered a violation of privacy.

So how will the California Department of Public Health verify documents? Short answer: They won't. They'll just have to assume that the people who sign up under these requirements are telling the truth.

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Yesterday, the department released a fact sheet with FAQ's for people who qualify under this new eligibility expansion. It says that "to protect confidentiality," medical documents will not be required to receive the vaccine.

Instead, those meeting the new eligbility requirements will be asked to sign a "self-attestation that they meet the criteria for high-risk medical conditions or disabilities," the fact sheet says.

The other option for folks who qualify is to get the vaccine through their medical provider or a pharmacy, both places that would already have documentation of a qualifying health condition.

An important reminder: the new eligibility list isn't just a random assortment of medical conditions -- these are conditions that have been specifically found to put patients living with them at high-risk of death and "severe complications" if they were to become infected with COVID-19. (BTW you still need to bring a photo ID and proof you live/work in the county to receive the vaccine.)

We don't need a qualified ethicist to tell you that this isn't a legitimate loophole to getting the vaccine before your turn comes. The vaccine rollout in a lot of states relies, in part, on the honor system – NPR covered this issue in Washington in February. It's also been noted in Boston, North Carolina, Illinois, and New Jersey, where smokers became eligible for the vaccine in January, no proof needed.


People ages 16-64 will be eligible if they have one or more of the following health conditions:

  • 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%

People with a developmental or "other significant, high-risk disability" also qualify if:

  • A COVID-19 infection is likely to result in severe life-threatening illness or death.
  • Acquiring COVID-19 will limit the individual’s ability to receive ongoing care or services vital to their well-being and survival.
  • Providing adequate and timely COVID care will be particularly challenging as a result of the individual’s disability.

You can find more info and read the full fact sheet here.


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