With about 500,000 frontline health care workers not yet vaccinated against COVID-19 and supplies scarce, Los Angeles County will not immediately give the shots to those 65 and older, officials said Wednesday.
After California’s state health department announced those 65 and older can get the vaccine, Los Angeles County’s health director said that there’s not enough doses in the county yet to vaccinate that group.
“The current priority is to complete the vaccinations of all of our frontline health care workers and staff and residents at our skilled nursing facilities,” L.A. County Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer said. “As we’re nearing the end of Phase 1A, we can look to starting vaccinations for groups within the next phase.”
The next phase starts with those who are 65 and older.
“We’ve asked the state to give us more vaccine so that we can use some of our other partners — particularly our pharmacy partners, and some of our health care provider partners — to be able to open up for vaccinating those folks that are 65 and older… quicker than, you know, the beginning of February,” Ferrer said.
The health director said the department is still working with the state to determine exactly how many additional vaccine doses are needed to expand vaccines to the older residents.
Ferrer said the state’s new guidelines to vaccinate the older residents are possible in counties that have nearly completed vaccinations of health care workers. But that’s not where L.A. County currently stands.
As of Tuesday, more than 194,000 first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine had been administered to health care workers and residents in skilled nursing facilities in L.A. County, according to Ferrer.
About 34,000 second doses had been administered, primarily to health care workers at acute care hospitals.
The county is ramping up capacity with five large vaccination sites that are set to open next Tuesday.
But those sites will only serve health care workers listed in Phase 1A of the vaccine distribution plan. That includes acute care hospitals, dialysis centers, primary and urgent care clinics, as well as lab workers, pharmacists, chiropractors, acupuncturists, physical therapists and others.
Eligible health care workers can register for an appointment to get the shot on an online sign-up portal, which was displaying a pop-up message Wednesday telling people not to sign up if they’re not health care workers who have contact with patients or infectious materials.
“We’re not done with our healthcare workers and we actually don’t have enough vaccine right now to be able to get done more quickly with our health care workers, and we have hundreds of thousands of health care workers that we need to get through in the next couple of weeks,” Ferrer said.
Meanwhile, Ferrer urged residents to continue following public health guidelines to avoid further spreading the coronavirus amid the relentless surge that has strained hospitals across the county.
“By next week, we’ll be able to enroll many more providers, and many more pharmacies, so that they can start, in advance, booking those appointments now that we know that the next priority group are people who are 65 years of age and older,” Ferrer said. “It was helpful to have like clarification that that will be the next priority group.”