While the availability of COVID-19 vaccines in Los Angeles County remains sparce, new sectors including law enforcement, educators and food workers will soon be eligible for a shot in the coming weeks, a health official announced Wednesday.
The expansion of the vaccine eligibility list is set to roll out in L.A. County within two to three weeks, according to Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer, and will include food and agriculture workers, teachers and childcare workers, law enforcement and emergency services. The move follows direction given by Gov. Newsom on Jan. 25.
But how soon those on the eligible list, which also includes health care workers, staff and residents at long-term care facilities and those 65 and older, can get a shot in the arm remains unknown because of the scarcity of the vaccine.
“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,” Ferrer said.
The county receives on average about 200,000 doses weekly, 100,000 of which are used on average for second doses. Ferrer said that leaves 100,000 doses a week to be distributed among the remaining 2.4 million residents who will be eligible to be vaccinated.
“So for now, it will take us time to reach everyone,” Ferrer 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.”
To help make the vaccine more accessible, the county is organizing a mobile team that will be able to vaccinate people 65 and older who are living in housing developments or senior centers in the county’s hardest hit communities. Currently, 80% of those 65 and older are still awaiting a vaccine despite being on the eligible list.
“If you’re 65 and older we need to get to you and get to you fast,” Ferrer said. “We want to make sure that we are paying attention particularly to people who are older with limited mobility and who need assistance securing their appointments.”
Community health workers will also be deployed to some of the communities largely impacted by the pandemic and go block by block to provide information on how to get a vaccine, and to dispel any myths and misinformation.
To help with distribution of available vaccines, 222 soldiers from Fort Carson, Colorado, will be deployed in the coming days to help administer vaccines at the Cal State L.A. vaccination center at the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“Getting shots –vaccinations– in people’s arms is the mission,” U.S. Army North Lt. Gen. Laura J. Richardson said in a statement. “And this team, here on behalf of the governor and state, has the ability to get thousands more people vaccinated every day.”
There were 3,434 new coronavirus cases and 141 deaths reported on Wednesday. As of Feb. 5, the average daily cases in the county is 4,500 daily which is a 70% decrease from the peak in mid-January when daily cases dramatically rose to over 15,000 new cases every day.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said while the cases are steadily declining, the number of deaths is “something we can never normalize.”