With some 63,000 coronavirus vaccine doses bound for Los Angeles stuck in southeastern states due to freezing weather across most of the U.S., vaccination sites run by the city of L.A. won’t be able to inoculate thousands of people who had appointments this week.
About 12,500 vaccine appointments originally set for Friday are being postponed due to the grounded flights and icy roads causing delivery delays, according to a news release from Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office.
Those whose appointments are impacted will be notified by text, email or phone. They should have already been contacted by Thursday evening, Garcetti said in a livestreamed coronavirus briefing.
Additional appointments scheduled for Saturday may also have to be postponed. Garcetti said a determination will be made early Saturday morning based on whether the flights have been able to take off.
It’s unclear when the appointments will be able to be rescheduled, as the city has yet to confirm when new shipments will arrive. But Garcetti said those in need of a second dose will get one within the 42 days recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Once more doses become available, those who had their appointment postponed will be first in line. Their appointments will be automatically rescheduled, and they’ll receive a notification with the details, according to the mayor’s office.
The shortage affects all five of the city’s inoculation centers, including the Dodger Stadium site. But the city will continue operating mobile clinics meant to target areas hardest hit by the pandemic.
As of Thursday afternoon, health officials for L.A. County had not indicated the delivery delays will impact their vaccine distribution.
Southern California is one of the few areas nationwide not experiencing harsh weather conditions, but it’s still feeling the impacts.
Orange County also had to temporarily close its mass vaccination site at Disneyland due to shipping delays. The storm also forced the closure of some vaccination centers in San Diego and Santa Barbara counties.
Fresno County, facing similar delays, is working to reallocate supplies from medical providers in hopes of avoiding appointment cancellations, according to KTLA sister station KSEE/KGPE in Fresno.
Garcetti vowed swift distribution once the vaccines do arrive.
“Severe weather across the country has disrupted travel and shipping nationwide, including delaying the delivery of our vaccines,” he said in a written statement. “Our City is ready to administer COVID-19 vaccines swiftly, safely, and equitably — and as soon as doses arrive in Los Angeles, we will get them into people’s arms immediately.”
The shipments still en route to L.A. include 26,000 doses held up in Kentucky that had been expected to arrive Tuesday, and another 37,000 doses meant for next week’s appointments sitting in Tennessee.
Officials did not say if it’s possible some of next week’s appointments could be affected.
The mobile clinics being run in South and East L.A., meanwhile, have administered more than 4,200 shots since the program launched two weeks ago. Two-thirds of those doses have gone to Black Angelenos, and 90% to people of color, according to Garcetti.
The mayor said the city is building on that effort with a new program called Mobile Outreach for Vaccine Equity, or MOVE, that will deploy 10 mobile vaccination teams by the end of next month.
The program has already begun vaccinating people in South Park, Green Meadows and Boyle Heights. It will next roll out in Chinatown, Vermont Square and Pico-Union before eventually reaching parts of northeast L.A. and the San Fernando Valley.
In another bid to improve access, starting Feb. 22 there will be an express lane at Dodger Stadium for clients of Access Services, the agency that provides transportation to Angelenos with disabilities.
Starting Sunday night, Access riders who are eligible can book their vaccine appointment and a round-trip ride to Dodger Stadium by calling 626-532-1616, Garcetti said.
“Bottom line: your abilities, your ethnicity, your geography — none of this should be a barrier to you getting a vaccine,” he said.
This week, both city and county vaccine centers have still been administering more second than first doses due to the strained supply. Garcetti says L.A. has been receiving 60% fewer doses than the amount the city has the capacity to administer.
Supply issues could become further complicated with L.A. County expanding vaccine eligibility to some essential workers, including teachers and grocery store employees, on March 1.
Garcetti said he does expect officials will continue to struggle with supply over the next few weeks. But he predicted the U.S. will be “swimming in doses” in the coming months. He pointed to President Joe Biden’s promise that the U.S. will secure 600 million doses by July 1.
“I think in a few weeks we’re going to be having a very different conversation about capacity, and those places like Los Angeles, that have built capacity as we have in the city, will be the models in this country for getting more of our population vaccinated quickly,” Garcetti said.
But for now, it remains a “race between infections and injections,” he added.
As officials continue to work to contain the virus’ spread, L.A. city coronavirus testing sites will do away with appointments.
Starting next week, Angelenos will no longer need an appointment to get a COVID-19 test at a city-run site.
“Just show up during normal hours of operation, Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.,” Garcetti said.
Those getting tested should bring their insurance information and ID, and they’ll sign up on site. Appointments can also still be scheduled ahead of time, if desired.