With vaccine demand far outstripping supply and many shots being used for second doses this week, Los Angeles city and county community vaccination centers are fully booked until at least the weekend.
Sites run by the county are booked through Friday, but officials hope to add appointments on Saturday and Sunday, county public health director Barbara Ferrer said in a briefing Monday afternoon.
The five city-run sites, including Dodger Stadium, are full through Saturday, and it’s unclear when more slots will open up.
“Once we know that we’ll have more doses, we’ll open up more appointments,” said Andrea Garcia, a press secretary for Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Those who register on the county’s website can get an alert when new appointments become available, Ferrer said.
The county has run out of appointment slots less than a week after expanding vaccine eligibility to all residents age 65 and older.
“The only limiting factor right now is we need more vaccine,” Ferrer said.
Last Thursday, Ferrer said nearly three-quarters of the vaccine doses the county is receiving this week are needed for second doses, leaving only 37,900 shots to administer as a first dose.
Ferrer noted that about 2 million people in L.A. County are currently eligible for a vaccine, including nearly 1.4 million age 65 and older, more than 600,000 health care workers and 100,000 people living in nursing homes and other congregate facilities. And they each need two doses.
The county has received a total of 853,650 doses, and its allocation hasn’t ramped up as quickly as eligibility expanded. In fact, last week around 168,500 doses arrived in the county — fewer than the 193,950 it received the week before.
But anyone who receives a first dose at one of the county’s large-capacity sites will automatically be scheduled for their second shot. The information can be found on their vaccination card, Ferrer said.
“They don’t need to do anything to get an appointment,” she said. “We will pre-register everybody who goes to our sites for their second appointment.”
Those sites are all using the Pfizer vaccine, so residents don’t have to be concerned about receiving a different shot.
“If there’s any confusion, you just can go to the site on that 21st day after you got your first vaccine,” Ferrer said. “You will be registered, and you will generally be registered at the same time you had your first appointment.”
Ferrer predicts the county is still months away from a point where most residents will be immunized.
It’s also unclear when there will be enough vaccines to offer them to groups next in line, including teachers, first responders and food service workers. On Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that California will shift to age-based prioritization after those groups are inoculated.
Ferrer said she’s hopeful vaccine supply will increase quickly under the Biden administration. Also on Monday, the president indicated he’d boost his goal for coronavirus vaccinations in his first 100 days in office, suggesting that soon an average of 1.5 million Americans could be vaccinated each day.
“That will give us lots more opportunities in February and March to be able to expand the groups of people that are eligible for getting vaccinated,” Ferrer said. But currently the county’s focus remains on people 65 and over.
County Board of Supervisors Chair Hilda Solis said she’s requesting President Joe Biden’s team to prioritize L.A. County for vaccine distribution and the rollout of federal vaccination centers, as it’s one of the nation’s hardest hit areas.
The county is also working to build out a distribution network so it is “immediately ready to get those doses into the arms of eligible residents,” Ferrer said.
That includes exploring partnerships with school districts, colleges and childcare providers to help vaccinate their teachers and staff once they are eligible.