Los Angeles County will again reserve the majority of its available Covid-19 vaccinations again next week to provide second doses for those ready to receive them, with county-operated large-scale sites exclusively administering second doses, health officials said Friday.
“Next week the majority of appointments at our vaccination sites will continue to be for second doses,” said Dr. Paul Simon, chief science officer for the county Department of Public Health. “We will only be providing second doses at our Mega-POD (point of dispending) sites.” That’s after only providing second shots this week, making two weeks in a row that the county has had to dial back first dose appointments because of vaccine supply issues.
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The county-operated Mega-PODs are at the Pomona Fairplex, Magic Mountain, the Forum, the county Office of Education in Downey and Cal State Northridge.
He said first doses will be available at other locations, primarily at health centers, pharmacies “and other providers that serve the areas hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The county has been receiving roughly 200,000 doses each week, although the actual amount has varied wildly, making advance planning for reservations difficult. Supplies were so limited this week, that the city of Los Angeles was forced to close the Dodger Stadium vaccination site and four other city locations through the weekend because it had exhausted its supply by Thursday afternoon. It is unclear how the county’s continued shortage will impact the Dodger Stadium site in the coming week.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said late Wednesday that the site had run out of vaccine because the city’s allocation dropped more than 80% week-over-week.
“This week we only received 16,000 new doses. That’s about the number of new doses we give out every single day,” he said. “That is down 90,000 from the week before. That is unacceptable.”
“In a briefing from our county partners this morning,” said the mayor on Wednesday, “we learned that other cities with smaller populations are receiving more doses than our entire county with a larger population. When we look to places that have lower cases, we see 50% more doses going to other cities. I don’t want to take a single dose away from them, but it’s only fair that Los Angeles gets a steady supply to meet the moment of our need.”
According to The Fresno Bee, Fresno County’s allocation was doubled to 19,000 doses this week. Last week, the county got 8,000.
So who’s in charge of the allocations?
The U.S. government decides how many doses each state gets each week. The state divides those doses among counties and major health systems. The county would then issue an allocation to the city.
CA uses a formula aimed at estimating how many people in an area are eligible to decide allocations. But the drop experienced in LA this week — especially compared to Fresno — doesn’t seem equitable given LA is a city of 3 million.
“We share their frustration,” LA County’s Dr. Paul Simon said. “We’re all frustrated. We know that we could do much more if we had more doses. For example, we’re now receiving about 200,000 doses each week, and as we’ve surveyed all of our providers, we’re confident that we could administer up to 600,000 doses a week. So we have much, much greater capacity if we can get the available vaccine.”
Garcetti is pointed out this week that the state’s push to rapidly expand vaccination sites is drying up a pool of vaccines that are already in short supply.
Asked more specifically if the increasing prevalence of vaccination sites may have contributed to the drop off in supply Garcetti observed, “It is a little bit of Hunger Games out there. We’re doing kind of an ‘all the above approach.’ I think part of this is we’ve gone to so many places without the supply matching that, that you’ve seen some of the core places…like ours and the county mega sites not have as much supply.”
Indeed, on Thursday long waits plagued the county vaccination site at the Forum in Inglewood because people without appointments showed up. One shot-seeker reported a three-hour delay.
The county Department of Public Health told City News Service the delays were “due to over 1,000 individuals who showed up at the site due for a second dose, but didn’t have an appointment.”
The county did not turn away individuals eligible for a second-dose. This increased the registration time for almost half of the people at the site. Additional staff was sent in to help manage the delays, according to the county.
Dr. Simon and county Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis both said increasing supplies will be critical as more people become eligible for the shots — noting that the state on Friday announced plans to expand eligibility next month to all people aged 16 or over who have underlying medical conditions or disabilities that make them highly susceptible to death or severe illness from Covid.
Davis recognized the generally improving downward trends in daily cases, but stressed that while the numbers are getting better, they’re still high, and “the risk of running into someone with COVID-19 who may not know it is still very high.”
In terms of vaccines, Simon said that most recent figures show 1,345,949 doses have been administered in the county, with 1,047,074 of them first doses. A total of 13.5 % of the county’s population aged 16 and over have received at least one dose, and 3.8% of that population are fully vaccinated.
City News Service contributed to this report.
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