L.A. Official Orders Covid-19 Vaccine Be Made Available To Residents Over 65, But Admits “There Isn’t Enough Vaccine”

Late Monday, Board of Supervisors Chair Hilda Solis issued an order directing county health officials to make Covid-19 vaccine appointments available to anyone 65 and older starting Thursday — despite health officials’ concerns about the supply of doses. Indeed, there were an estimated 800,000+ healthcare workers and others qualified for the vaccine before the county expanded eligibility to another 1.3 million residents 65 and older.

Solis herself admitted on Tuesday that “there isn’t enough vaccine for all those over 65,” but indicated she was hopeful the Biden Administration would make more doses available, “and let’s leave it at that.”

L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said, as of last week, the region had received 685,000 vaccine doses. She said 75% of those had been delivered to residents. According to the director, 165,000 more doses would be arriving Tuesday and Wednesday.

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“We’re not yet sure about our allocation next week,” said Ferrer. “We have limited vaccine supply and this means we can only offer a small number of appointments each week.” She added that there were 50,000 appointments available for the remainder of the week and that accounted for the vast majority of the vaccine currently in hand.

Solis’ decision to make the shots available to people 65 and older is in line with guidance released last week by Gov. Gavin Newsom. But it conflicted with comments by county health officials, who wanted to wait until vaccinations of front-line health care workers were completed before offering limited vaccine supplies to a wider array of people. It also conflicted with what many said was reality on the ground, where vaccines were in short supply in some cases.

So short is the supply that the operators of the vaccination clinic at Dodger Stadium warned over the weekend they could run out of doses as early as Wednesday. On Tuesday, the county announced the opening of five large-scale vaccine sites to complement 75 smaller locations and the high-capacity center opened by the city at Dodger Stadium. The new centers are located at Six Flags Magic Mountain, Cal State Northridge, the Pomona Fairplex, the L.A. County Office of Education in Downey
and the Forum in Inglewood. It was unclear whether there had been a parallel increase in vaccine doses to those sites.

As of last week, California had administered just 891,000 of its first 3.4 million doses of both vaccines. That’s barely 26%, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News. Only Alabama, Georgia and Virginia have lower percentages than California at administering their allotments.

Per capita, the Golden State has given at least one shot to 2,716 residents per 100,000, according to the CDC. That puts California near-last in per capita distribution in the U.S., just above Idaho and just below Mississippi.

The slow rollout has come amid confusion over Governor Gavin Newsom’s tiered plan, which at first had just three tiers — not to be confused with Newsom’s three tiered and color coded economic reopening plan. Vaccine-wise, the first priority tier was divided up into groups 1A, 1B and 1C. Then the governor subdivided group 1B into two parts. Confused yet?

Confusion over those tiers, a phantom promise by federal officials to release all remaining doses — when there weren’t any — and reported glitches with state software have had local officials pointing fingers at the state, state officials pointing fingers at the feds and the feds blaming both of the aforementioned parties.

Concerns about the supply of vaccines was heightened late Sunday, when the state epidemiologist warned providers to stop administering doses from a batch of 330,000 Moderna vaccines in response to allergic reactions suffered by a handful of people in San Diego.

Those 330,000 doses of Moderna vaccine no longer available represent 10% of all the vaccines received by the state thus far — dealing a blow to counties like Los Angeles that have been requesting more vaccine allocations to keep up with demand.

The affected Moderna vaccines were distributed to 287 locations across California. It was unclear if any of those locations were in Los Angeles County.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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