L.A. County set to receive biggest vaccine shipment yet, with 62% of shots going toward 1st doses

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People in vehicles arrive for their COVID-19 vaccine on campus at Cal State Los Angeles on March 4, 2021.(Frederic J. Brown / AFP / Getty Images)

People in vehicles arrive for their COVID-19 vaccine on campus at Cal State Los Angeles on March 4, 2021.(Frederic J. Brown / AFP / Getty Images)

Los Angeles County will be giving out more coronavirus vaccine first doses than second doses next week with the county set to receive its largest shipment of shots yet, officials said Friday.

The county expects to receive nearly 313,000 doses next week, with 62% of them going to first doses, the county’s vaccination chief, Dr. Paul Simon, said in a Friday media availability.

That compares to some 280,000 doses handed out this week, but is still far below the 600,000 appointments the county says it has the capacity for in a week.

Simon said the county expects vaccine supply to continue increasing, but “we’re not quite sure at the pace.”

This week’s shipments should include 53,700 doses of the newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine. But after that, there may be a delay of several weeks before more supply of the single-dose shot arrives toward the end of the month, Simon said.

The number of doses on hand could begin to rapidly increase in April, but “we’ll just have to see,” he said.

So far, it’s not exactly clear what impact the state’s new plan to allocate 40% of vaccine doses to the state’s most vulnerable ZIP codes will mean for L.A. County. But considering the county houses a large number of those neighborhoods, Simon said it should “give us an advantage in getting additional vaccine supplies.”

Simon also responded to concerns he’s heard regarding the Johnson & Johnson vaccine’s efficacy, with some speculating it may be slightly less effective than the other two approved.

But Simon said such “head-to-head comparisons are not valid for several reasons,” including because the Pfizer and Moderna trials were conducted before more contagious variants were spreading and because each trial is designed differently.  

“The important point is that the differences in reported vaccine efficacy are insignificant relative to the substantial benefits provided by all three vaccines,” he said. “The best vaccine is the one a person can get soonest.”

And there are some advantages to the Johnson & Johnson since it requires only one dose, meaning immunity can build up faster and it’s easier to store, Simon added.

With more essential workers now eligible to get a shot in L.A. County, officials are reserving certain days of the week for appointments for certain groups. This week’s schedule is as follows:

  • Food and agriculture workers: Monday, Tuesday and Thursday
  • People 65 and older: Wednesday and Friday
  • Education and child care workers: Saturday
  • Staff at independent, non-public schools: Sunday
  • Emergency services workers: Wednesday

Visit the county’s vaccination website for more information on scheduling an appointment.

Simon noted that staff at public schools will also be served by partner health care organizations countywide.

Those getting vaccinated as an essential worker will need to provide proof of their employment. That can include a badge with the employer’s name and address, or some may need to bring paystubs or an attestation letter.

“We want to make it as easy as possible while also making sure that only eligible persons received the vaccine,” Simon said.

Click here for more on where the essential workers will be able to go to get their shots, and what they need to bring with them.

On March 15, L.A. County plans to follow the state in expanding vaccine access to residents age 16 to 64 with certain health conditions and disabilities. Long Beach, with its own health department, is moving ahead of the rest of the county and will expand to those with disabilities Monday, March 8.

However, Simon said officials are awaiting more guidance from the state before developing a plan. They’re concerned about how the state will define those eligible and believe such vaccinations would be best handled by the individual’s medical provider.  

“I think providers can take a thoughtful approach in deciding how to prioritize their patients for this,” Simon said. “And then I think the other issue is our concern that if there are people that are really critically ill or have conditions that make them very medically fragile, going out to a large community site to be vaccinated might not be the safest.”

As of Friday, there were more than 2.4 million doses administered in the county, with more than 814,000 people fully vaccinated.

But the county is still adding a relatively high number of new COVID-19 cases each day. Another 2,110 new cases and 144 deaths were reported Friday.

“I think we’re at a really critical point here. Things are looking very positive, but could turn south quickly if we don’t do the right things,” Simon said. “We will not be able to keep scaling up vaccinations over the next few months if we’re dealing with another surge.”

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