California vaccine expansion starts Monday, but loophole could leave space for people to jump line

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- On March 15, 4.4 million Californians 16 to 64 years old with per-existing health conditions will be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccines.

For the past month Charis Hill, a disabled activist, has been counting down the days to March 15.

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"It's like New Year's Eve, watching the ball drop. I'm going to refresh the screen as many times as it takes and keep trying," said Charis Hill.

When we last talked to Charis the state had just released the list of underlying health conditions that qualified under this new expansion. Charis's chronic disease was not on the list, but if you keep scrolling down, the list allows for medical doctors to use their best clinical judgement. It also includes "individuals who are likely to develop severe life-threatening illness or death from COVID." So, Charis got a doctor's note.

Luz Pena: "Every time you pass by and you see that doctor's note (on the fridge) what goes through your mind?"

Charis Hill: "It's a reminder that my doctor cares about me," said Hill and added, "It makes it easier for me to prove that I qualify. I know that the information that has been realized over the last couple days says that people can self-attest their disability."

The state is relying on people's honesty when they sign up for an appointment on the website and medical experts say bringing a doctor's note does not hurt.

On the website you have to confirm you are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine and certify the information you are submitting is true and accurate.

VIDEO: Sonoma, Contra Costa counties move to less restrictive red tier
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There's forward progress happening in the Bay Area as two remaining counties, Contra Costa and Sonoma, joined others in our region by moving into the red tier Sunday.

A system that leaves space for fraud. California's top health officer Dr. Tomás Aragon said they know some people might try to jump the line.

"We are trying to sort of balance the challenges of how do we get people vaccinated. For us to do verification was going to be an additional road block," said Dr. Aragon.

At Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital Dr. Christopher Colwell says they've been getting many calls ahead of March 15th.

"We are getting calls from all sorts of folks in San Francisco and outside of San Francisco. Probably the most are the ones in that 60-64 age group that have been so close but not quite there," said Dr. Colwell, Chief of Zuckerberg's Emergency Medicine.

RELATED: How can I register for a COVID-19 vaccine in California?

Dr. Colwell is glad medical experts can have a say, "Sometimes only your personal physician is really in a position to be able to determine," said Dr. Colwell.

An hour after our interview Charis Hill was able to schedule the first vaccine dose appointment for Thursday March 18th.

Luz Pena: "What are you looking forward to most once you are fully vaccinated?"

Charis Hill: "I think just honestly, grocery shopping. I want to feel independent again and I want to feel less isolated."

Charis says a vaccine appointment is a relief but feels "let down" by the state of California.

"I'm still pretty angry that the state did not prioritized us when we should've been prioritized but having the vaccine will change a lot for me," said Hill.

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