Massive FEMA-supported COVID-19 vaccination site at Cal State L.A. to close in April

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The massive COVID-19 vaccination site at California State University, Los Angeles is closing on April 11 after completing its “eight-week mission,” officials announced Friday.

The vaccine site was one of the first federally run coronavirus vaccination sites in the country when it opened in February as part of a ramped-up effort to administer doses more quickly and reach communities hit hard by the pandemic.

Nearly half million vaccinations were administered at the large-scale location as well as another in Oakland, which each opened with the capacity to inoculate thousands of people each day and the ability to branch out with pop-up, mobile vaccine sites.

Both locations, jointly operated with the state, were part of a pilot for President Joe Biden’s plan to open 100 such COVID-19 vaccination sites across the country in 100 days.

Vaccinations end at the massive sites just days before California’s vaccine eligibility criteria expands dramatically, allowing everyone 16 and older to get vaccinated.

FEMA and the state are “coordinating closely with local officials on the possibility of reusing the two sites,” state officials said, referring to both the RingCentral Coliseum in Oakland and Cal State L.A. campus.

It’s unclear if the county will begin administering vaccines at the campus after April 11.

“While we are disappointed, we understand and there are plans underway to figure out the best way to preserve that POD with large operation with another lead entity, or conceivably we might break it into smaller community sites. We’ve not yet decided that firmly,” said L.A. County Department of Public Health Chief Science Officer Dr. Paul Simon.

Simon said the county should reach a decision soon.

“We recognize it’s a really important site,” he said. “We in no way want to scale back vaccination infrastructure. We’re fairly confident we’re going to be getting increased supplies of vaccine and so we want to be well prepared to deliver it swiftly.“

Cal State L.A., in the city’s Eastside region, was chosen because it’s in one of the “most diverse and socioeconomically challenged communities in the country,” state officials said.

Of the doses administered at the sites, nearly 67% were given to underserved communities and people of color, according to the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

“These communities have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and are home to essential workers who have borne the brunt of keeping the economy open over the past year,” officials said.

To ramp up vaccinations ahead of closing, the site will begin providing the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine to new patients after those who’ve already received their first dose come in to get their second of the Pfizer vaccine.

In L.A. County, there are several county and city-operated vaccination sites that residents can go to for vaccination, in addition to getting the shots at pharmacies and health care providers.

Currently eligible Californians are now able to make vaccine appointments through the state-operated website, MyTurn.ca.gov, or by calling 833-422-4255, or visiting the county’s website or calling 833-540-0473.

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