Wednesday was the first day the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health expanded vaccinations to residents 65 years and older. With almost 1.4 million residents in that age group, and between 700,000-800,000 eligible healthcare workers, the number of vaccines required to complete two doses is over 4 million. Since doses first arrived five weeks ago on Dec. 14, the county has received only 853,650 doses, including doses that arrived Wednesday.
County officials said in a statement that a very limited number of vaccination appointments were available for both health care workers and eligible seniors. Once more appointments become available, residents can visit VaccinateLACounty.com to register. For those without access to a computer or the internet, a call center is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. to help schedule appointments at (833) 540-0473.
The county opened five large-scale vaccination sites Tuesday; however, the sites are plagued by an extremely limited supply of doses, according to the county. During a town hall Tuesday, Dr. Seira Kurian, director of the L.A. County Health Department’s Division of Medical Affairs, said the county doesn’t anticipate a significant increase in the number vaccines in its weekly allotment.
Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of Public Health, said Tuesday that she estimated the county could run out of shot by early next week. “We just have to see how many doses we’re going to get for the following week,” Ferrer said.
“While there is great interest in the COVID-19 vaccine, and for good reason, the vaccine supply is still extremely limited, and we want to urge everyone to have patience as we work urgently with our federal and state partners to expand capacity and supply in the weeks ahead,” Ferrer said in a statement Wednesday. “Of the vaccination doses that we received for this upcoming week, 73% of our allocation will need to be used for second doses. The little bit that remains, along with any vaccine that wasn’t used the previous week, is what is available for us to use for appointments for those eligible to receive first doses. We just are not receiving enough vaccine doses to move as quickly as we would like.”
Further causing concern, State Epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan warned Wednesday that vaccinating California seniors 65 and older could take until June. Pan’s estimate is based on a goal to vaccinate 70% of California’s 6.2 million seniors 65 and older with both doses while accounting for current vaccine allocation numbers. The state currently receives between 400,000 to 500,000 doses a week from the federal government.
“We don’t know when supply will be increasing,” Pan said during a vaccine advisory committee.
This could further delay when other groups become eligible for the vaccine.
As of last week, from the total of 685,000 received doses, more than 384,000 total doses have been administered to those in Phase 1A. This includes more than 307,000 first doses and more than 87,000 second doses that have been administered. Additionally, vaccines have been delivered to all 340 skilled nursing facilities in Los Angeles County, and to date, more than 68% of all eligible residents received their first dose and 65% of staff.
Public Health confirmed 262 new deaths and 6,492 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday. The number of new cases and deaths reported reflects the fact that testing sites were closed for the holiday weekend and there is slightly less testing capacity with the conversion of Dodger Stadium to a vaccination location.
There are currently 7,253 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19, 23% in the ICU.