Los Angeles County is expanding vaccine eligibility to people working as gardeners, landscapers, housekeepers, nannies and airline crew members, health officials said Friday.
Those workers are eligible as long as they work at least 20 hours a week, and flight crews must be based in the county, Dr. Paul Simon, the county’s vaccine chief, said in a media availability.
Like other groups, they must provide proof of eligibility — which can be a self-attestation letter — along with ID and proof they live or work in L.A. County.
The eligibility expansion comes with the county set to receive its largest allocation of doses yet for next week, 338,000 doses, a 21% increase from this week. The shipment will include about 14,000 doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Simon said.
More than half of the shots — 57% — will go toward first doses, and 65% are being directed to vulnerable and hard-hit communities, according to Simon.
Although supply is growing, Simon cautioned that people will still have to “be patient” once eligibility expands to all adults 50 and over on April 1, then to everyone at least 16 years old on April 15.
Simon estimated up to 1 million people will become eligible for the first time April 1. L.A. County would need to see a substantial increase in supply to accommodate the demand, so it’s likely people will face challenges in scheduling appointments, he said.
“There will likely be a rush,” he said. “I anticipate that we will be overwhelmed during the first week when things open up.”
For those unable to get an appointment immediately, Simon advised to “wait a week or so and things, I believe, will be a little bit easier to navigate.”
Even with a “very significant increase” in vaccine supply, Simon estimates it would take a couple months to get at least 75% of the adult population vaccinated.
“Our calculations suggest that if we’re able to get up to 750,000 doses delivered a week, we should be able to work through the adult population certainly by the end of June,” he said. “That’s a goal contingent upon us getting a larger supply of vaccine.”
Simon said some vaccine providers will allow people not yet eligible to make appointments for a date in the future on which they are, but that will vary by scheduling system, and he wasn’t sure which would offer it.
Any 16- or 17-year-olds scheduling an appointment must make sure the site they visit is administering the Pfizer vaccine, since it is currently the only one approved in the U.S. for those under 18. No vaccines are yet available for children under 16.
Next week at some L.A. County vaccine sites in underserved communities, officials will begin letting family members who accompany those with appointments to get vaccinated as well, Simon said.
It will be tried out at one or two of the larger sites, Simon said, though he declined to disclose the exact locations.
He said the plan was still uncertain, and faces concerns about the time it could take to register relatives on site, but “we think it’s a great idea to help increase vaccination coverage in these higher-need communities.”
In total, 31% of adults in L.A. County have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 67% of those who are 65 and older.
Despite the progress, racial disparities in who’s getting the vaccine persist. Vaccination rates remain lower in South L.A., the Antelope Valley, parts of East L.A., the San Gabriel Valley and eastern parts of the San Fernando Valley.
Many affluent areas have vaccination rates above 80%, while lower income communities have rates that fall below 50%, Simon said.
Simon said officials are still working to target their outreach efforts on vulnerable neighborhoods with the lowest rates.