By Jordan Green and Fabiola Diaz
After Governor Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday that seniors 65 and older are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health clarified that the county will not immediately be able to do so.
“The current priority is to complete vaccination of Phase 1A — our frontline healthcare workers and staff and resident at skilled nursing facilities,” officials wrote in a series of tweets Wednesday. “As we near the end of Phase 1A, we can look to starting vaccinations for groups within next phase — 1B, starting with those who are 65 and older as announced by the Governor.”
Though officials estimates that vaccinations will begin for those in Phase 1B — which includes seniors 65 and older, and individuals working in certain industries — in early February, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of Public Health, said the agency has asked the state for more vaccines to begin vaccinating those seniors “quicker than, you know, the beginning of February.”
Changes to the state’s guidance came after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced changes to its vaccine plan, including making more of the coronavirus vaccines available to the states, on Tuesday. Along with the increase in vaccine supply, the federal government encouraged states to expand the pool of those eligible to receive the vaccine to individuals 65 and older.
“There is no higher priority than effectively and equitably distributing these vaccines as quickly as possible to those who face the gravest consequences,” Newsom said in a statement announcing the change to state guidelines.
The governor also announced a new system to let people know if they are eligible to receive a vaccine, and if not yet eligible, to register for a notification via email or text when they are eligible. That system is expected to launch next week. A second phase of that system will help counties, cities and others run mass vaccination events. This will include a way to schedule vaccination appointments at those events.
Following the announcement from the governor, seniors looking to make appointments were confused by the lack of information and clarity. This prompted L.A. County health officials to provide clarification.
Public Health reports as of Tuesday, more than 194,000 first doses and more than 44,000 second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to those in Phase 1A. To ramp up capacity and complete vaccinations for the approximately 500,000 frontline healthcare workers, Public Health is adding dozens more pharmacies and clinics, as well as five new large-capacity vaccination sites that the county is opening next Tuesday.
Newsom called for 1 million additional vaccine doses across the state by the end of this week, according to a statement by the California Department of Public Health. This effort is also seeking to increase the number of people who can provide vaccinations by more than 100,000 health care professionals, including 36,000 dentists and 69,000 pharmacy technicians.
Illustrating the state’s struggles to vaccinate Californians, the CDC reported Thursday that California has administered about 975,293 first doses of its 3.5 million doses so far and is ranked 43rd in the number of vaccines administered per 100,000 residents.