COVID-19 vaccine eligibility expands to anyone over the age of 16 in L.A. County

Chief Health Officer Sarah Van Orman encouraged students to make an appointment as they become available, noting that a successful fall re-opening is contingent upon high vaccination rates.

Los Angeles County expanded vaccine eligibility to anyone 16 or older on April 10, five days earlier than originally anticipated. As vaccine appointment registration for USC students went live on April 12, all spots available for April 15 and 16 were filled within three hours, said Dr. Sarah Van Orman, the Chief Health Officer at the Student Health Center.

Under the new guidelines, anyone aged 16 or older living in Los Angeles County can receive the vaccine regardless of employment, pre-existing conditions or other factors. On April 15, that eligibility expands to the entire state.

Though health experts highly encourage getting vaccinated against COVID-19, USC is currently not requiring vaccinations for students returning to campus in the fall. A number of universities have already declared students cannot return for in-person classes unless they have received their COVID-19 vaccine.

For students that may be hesitant to receive a vaccine, Keck Assistant Professor Charlston Chiang advised the benefits of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine outweigh potential drawbacks.

“There is enough evidence that any negative consequences from the vaccine would be a very rare event,” Chiang said in an email to Annenberg Media. “All evidence points toward a safe vaccine; any severe side or unintended effects are extremely rare.”

The university’s testing policy is contingent on the number of cases in the future. Van Orman said the university is prepared to test, “either on a routine basis or on an as needed basis.”

USC sophomore Ashlen Suen jumped at the chance to get vaccinated. Suen said becoming vaccinated will allow him to be more comfortable when travelling home to New Jersey to see his mom, who is at high risk for the COVID-19.

“I’m getting vaccinated not only to protect myself, but to protect her as well,” Suen said. “I don’t think I’d be able to forgive myself if I got her sick.”

Suen, who is living off-campus in LA this semester, plans to get his Johnson & Johnson vaccine as soon as they’re available to the public. He started to encourage his friends and family to get their vaccines if they haven’t already, too.

On Saturday, the U.S. reported 4.6 million vaccines administered, a new single-day record. This brings the current total of fully vaccinated Americans above 56 million and just under 100 million who have received a first dose.

The Johnson & Johnson and Moderna vaccines have been approved for people of ages 18 and older, while Pfizer’s vaccine is available for ages 16 and older. All three companies are currently holding trials to see if their vaccines are safe for younger-aged children. Pfizer recently filed to receive emergency authorization for 12-15 year olds.

Students like Sarah Ranger, 17, a junior at Claremont High School, said getting the vaccine means being one step closer to reaching normalcy.

“I don’t like needles, but I’m not concerned with the side effects,” said Ranger. “I think once I get it, I can go out more and...not feel I’m going to get [COVID-19] right away.”

Ranger, who’s scheduled to receive her vaccine this week, said the scheduling process couldn’t have been easier. “It was easy. You just have to pick a time and fill out your information and that was all.”

While vaccine appointments at the Lyon center are booked up for this week, students can expect appointments will continue to become available as the school receives vaccine supplies. In the meantime, Californians will need to wait until Wednesday to do so via California’s MyTurn website.

“It’s critical all of our students get vaccinated as soon as possible,” Van Orman said. “We’re also encouraging students and employees to get the vaccine wherever they can get the vaccine.”

Students who are interested in receiving the vaccine should schedule an appointment online through the USC student health portal, call the health office, or use the MyTurn website.