January 13, 2021

County Health Officer Dr. Clayton Chau today announced that all Orange County (OC) residents ages 65 and older are now eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

“I reached this decision after carefully reviewing case, hospitalization/intensive care unit (ICU), and mortality data related to older adults and noting the especially concerning outcomes for this specific population here in OC,” said Dr. Chau, County Health Officer and Director of the OC Health Care Agency (HCA). “My aim is to reduce hospitalizations and deaths as rapidly as possible, and we must prioritize our vaccine allocation to protect the most vulnerable in our community.”

OC Emergency Medical Services polled 25 hospitals with emergency departments on January 10, 2021, and 13 of those hospitals responded with data based on age group of patients currently hospitalized, in the ICU, and dependent on ventilators. Additionally, they provided the County Health Officer with weekly survey data from the hospitals that received CARES Act funding from the County of Orange.

Findings include:

  1. Older adults have dramatically higher death rates in OC;
  2. Deaths to older adults from COVID-19 have increased dramatically since November, exceeding those in July and August;
  3. Currently, 54% of persons hospitalized for COVID-19 are over age 60; 72% of patients in the ICU and 72% of patients on ventilators are over age 60;
  4. Hospital cases are rising most rapidly among 65 to 84 year olds;
  5. Older adults from low Health Equity census tracts are almost twice as likely to die from COVID-19 compared to seniors who live in more affluent areas.
  6. All residents are encouraged to register to be notified when the County of Orange’s vaccine and testing management app, Othena, has appointments available and is ready for their use by visiting othena.com/individuals.php and filling out the online form.

The success of the County’s phased, tiered vaccination plan depends on everyone being patient and allowing priority groups to be vaccinated first. Overwhelming the appointment system will make it even more challenging to dispense the limited supply of vaccine currently available. As vaccine becomes more plentiful, additional appointments will become available, and eligibility will open up to other groups.