A little more than a month after opening with much fanfare from California Governor Gavin Newsom, the large-scale vaccination site at Cal State Los Angeles will cease operations on April 11, federal and state officials managing the location announced today.
The location was opened in February as an eight-week pilot project, marking a cooperative effort between the state and federal government targeting lower-income areas hard hit by the pandemic. The partnership included two vaccination sites — one at Cal State Los Angeles and the other in Oakland.
NEW: CA is partnering with the Biden Administration and @FEMA to set up 2 first-in-the-nation vaccination pilot sites at Oakland Coliseum & CSU Los Angeles.
We expect these sites to open to eligible members of the public beginning February 16. pic.twitter.com/Xzjlv2BhIX
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) February 3, 2021
Newsom has made vaccinating those in California’s lowest economic quartile central to the state’s reopening effort, tying the loosening of restrictions to success in getting underserved communities vaccinated.
Given that, it’s unclear why state and federal officials decided to close the Cal State L.A. site, which has administered more than 200,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, with roughly two-thirds of those shots administered at the sites have been to under-served communities and people of color, according to FEMA officials.
Even more puzzling is that the revelation comes one day after Newsom announced the state will make all residents over 50 eligible for the vaccine on April 1 and all of those over 16 eligible on April 15. Such an expansion would seem to require one of the state’s biggest sites.
It’s not the first time a state vaccination decision has caused some cognitive dissonance. Newsom’s announcement yesterday was met with measured enthusiasm by L.A. Public Health officials. They issued a carefully-worded statement saying, “Expanding vaccine eligibility over the next couple of weeks will make it easier for more people to get vaccinated provided the County receives more doses.” Those final six words are key.
County health officers across the state have regularly complained about the lack of doses and clarity around future shipments, both of which are filtered through the state. Lack of supply and lack of clarity around how many doses are coming forced L.A. County to deliver only second shots this week — the logic there being that it is better to complete vaccinations already begun that begin those it is uncertain to be able to complete.
The last time Newsom announced a major expansion of vaccine eligibility was on March 15, when he directed that Covid-19 vaccine appointments be made available to people aged 16-65 years old with an underlying health condition. That group comprises 4.4 million Californians.
The timing of that expansion was problematic. It coincided directly with what Marta Green — a state official tapped to oversee the third-party vaccine administrator — called a “really challenging” moment.
“When we look at the concrete information we have,” said Green, “that 3-week projection from the CDC, I hate to tell you this, it is entirely flat. There is not a single [additional] dose. Not one.”
Discussions are under way with local officials for possible continued use of the location when the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Governor’s Office of Emergency Services conclude their work, but no official commitment has been made.
The two sites combined have administered about 445,000 doses of vaccine since they opened. The Los Angeles site had doled out roughly 215,000 doses as of Tuesday.
“In the fight against COVID-19, equity is key. This pilot program has shown the rest of the nation a forward-leaning way to serve our communities most in need,” said Cal OES Director Mark Ghilarducci. “We could not be more pleased with the success of these sites or the partnership we have built with our federal partners.”
With the operations winding down, the site this week is completing the administration of second doses of the Pfizer vaccines to people who had already received their initial dose. Beginning April 1, the site will be administering only the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
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