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L.A. County to Expand Vaccination Eligibility in Coming Weeks

A vial of the Moderna vaccine. | Photo courtesy of San Bernardino County

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health plans to start vaccinating essential workers in the education, food and emergency services sectors in two to three weeks, officials announced Wednesday.

On Jan. 25, Governor Gavin Newsom announced three additional frontline workers should be vaccinated as part of Phase 1B Tier 1: education and childcare workers, food and agriculture workers, and emergency services workers. But with a limited vaccine supply, expected for weeks ahead, and 80% of seniors 65 and older still waiting to receive at least one dose, it may be a while before those in eligible groups can get a shot.

“With very limited vaccine supply and uncertainty on timing for increased production, a realistic and carefully developed plan for expanding vaccination availability to these additional sectors is being developed,” the department said in a statement.

Based on anticipated allocations over the next month, officials expect to receive, on average, 200,000 doses a week. If on average, 100,000 of these vaccines are needed for second doses, that leaves 100,000 doses a week to distribute among the remaining 2.4 million individuals that will be eligible to be vaccinated.

Public Health estimates more than 547,000 people are working in the food and agriculture sector and will be eligible for the vaccine, 668,000 people in the childcare and education sector, and 154,000 law enforcement and emergency responders in the county.

“So for now, it will take us time to reach everyone,” Barbara Ferrer, director of public health, said. “And in these times of vaccine scarcity we do need to ask that everyone be mindful of waiting for your turn and helping to ensure that those most vulnerable in each eligible group had good access to the vaccine.”

The make the vaccine more accessible, the public health department is organizing mobile teams to bring vaccinations directly to seniors living in housing developments or accessing senior centers in hardest-hit communities. Community health workers in the highly impacted communities, at times, will go block by block to provide information to residents about how to get vaccinated and dispel myths and misinformation about the vaccine. In addition, the county is working to support neighborhood vaccination sites, and have placed 60 volunteers from various universities at sites to provide assistance with data entry, cold-chain support and licensed clinical vaccinators.

“In these times of vaccine scarcity, we ask that everyone be mindful of waiting for your turn, and ensuring that those most vulnerable in each eligible group have access to the vaccine; this includes older people, frontline workers in these eligible sectors, and eligible residents and workers in the hardest hit communities,” Ferrer said in a statement. “I want to thank everyone who has communicated to us the considerations and concerns they have around vaccine access for the populations they serve; your input is invaluable and is being used to inform the county’s plans for vaccinating more sectors and groups in the near future.”

The state announced that in the next several weeks the vaccination effort statewide will be coordinated by a third-party administrator, Blue Shield of California. During and after this transition, Public Health’s website, VaccinateLACounty.com will remain a portal for the latest information about COVID-19 and the vaccine and link people to the statewide appointment registration system.

February 11, 2021

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