SF lowers BMI threshold for COVID-19 vaccine eligibility; here's how to find out if you qualify

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Vaccine hopefuls lined up at Moscone Center in San Francisco Monday, the first day for Tier 1C, which opens eligibility to people who are 16 to 64 with various health conditions, including obesity. San Francisco is allowing people with a body mass index of 30 or higher to get a COVID vaccine, which is less stringent than California's Department of Public Health guidelines.

"Two-thirds of the U.S. population has a BMI greater than 25, and are either overweight or have obesity," said Dr. Dan Azagury, chief of bariatrics and the medical director of the weight loss clinic at Stanford.

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Azagury says San Francisco was right to move the obesity threshold from the state's requirement of a body mass index of 40, down to 30. "Most studies around COVID have focused on patients who had a BMI greater 35 or 40 and that's where they saw a marked increase in terms of hospitalization and mortality, but there was already a difference when the BMI was greater than 30."

"I actually qualify, my BMI is over 30," said Bay Area resident, Stevana Case, who got her vaccine at Moscone Monday because of an auto-immune condition. But, she wants to encourage people with a high BMI to get vaccinated. "I would say go for it, it is nothing to be ashamed it, it increases your underlying risk."

What does a BMI of 30 or 40 look like? Body mass index (BMI) is a person's weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters. Calculators are available online, including on the CDC website.

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According to the CDC's BMI calculator, for example, someone who is 5' 6' and 190 pounds, has a BMI of 30.7. Someone who is 5' 6' and 250 pounds, has a BMI of 40.

Someone who is 6 foot and 225 pounds, has a BMI of 30.5. If someone is 6 foot and 300 pounds, they have a BMI of 40.7

"I think a variety of reasons people can struggle with weight whether it's hormonal, bad eating habits, or genetics, so I think to open that for those people in that group, I definitely think is really important," said Colleen Scullion, who explained that she has struggled with her own weight.

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Scullion takes care of her parents and just got her first vaccine dose as an essential worker. "It's just great that I was able to get it today and they have theirs, and there's just this sense of hope that soon we'll go back to normal," she said through tears.

Azagury acknowledges there is a stigma associated with obesity, but says it's important that people who qualify sign-up for a vaccine. "The best thing you can do is get in line and get a vaccine, not only for yourself, but the people you love, the people around you, because when you get a vaccine you're also protecting others."

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