March 7, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Essential workers can get COVID-19 vaccine in L.A. County soon

Certain essential workers in Los Angeles County, including teachers, will become eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations starting March 1, but will probably face competition as supplies are expected to remain limited.

The next pool of eligible Angelenos includes educators and child-care workers; food and agriculture workers, which include grocery store employees; and law enforcement personnel and other emergency responders.

“We anticipate opening up many different sites and setting up special, what we call closed sites for all these sectors on March 1,” L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said during a briefing.

More than 1.3 million people fall into those groups. About 2.2 million people in L.A. County who work in healthcare, live in long-term care facilities or are 65 and older are already eligible to be vaccinated.

Given the sheer number of people who need to get their shots, “we’re all going to still need to have a lot of patience here,” Ferrer said.

That’s especially the case as L.A. County, like the state and nation, continues to run into frustrating limits in terms of vaccine supply.

Last week, L.A. County received 219,700 doses — its largest shipment to date, but still a relative drop in the bucket for a county of about 10 million people.

Both available vaccines, one from Pfizer-BioNTech and the other from Moderna, require two shots, given three and four weeks apart, respectively.

In the face of tight supplies, the county has had to limit how many people can receive initial doses to ensure that they can get their second shots on time.

But Ferrer said the county will be able to work though much of that queue by early next month.

“That will allow us to take doses that are now going for a second-dose appointments and put them back into the community for first-dose appointments,” she said. “And that allows us to have many more doses available as we expand the eligibility for who’s able to get vaccinated.”

So far, more than 1.5 million vaccine doses have been administered in the county, according to the California Department of Public Health.

Roughly 38% of L.A. County residents 65 and older — about 537,895 out of more than 1.4 million people — have received their first vaccine dose, county Supervisor Hilda Solis said Tuesday.

“Right now, our greatest constraint happens to be the supply of vaccine,” she said. “And as we move forward, more residents become eligible to be vaccinated. It is critical that the county receive more vaccines to meet that significant demand.”

L.A. County isn’t alone in contending with vaccine shortages, or having to hoard available supplies for second doses. Health officials throughout the state have run into similar limitations.

That issue is expected to continue this week.

“Our city has the tools, the infrastructure and the determination to vaccinate Angelenos swiftly and safely — we simply need more doses,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement Monday.

San Francisco was forced to temporarily pause operations at its Moscone Center and City College vaccination sites because of diminished supplies, according to a public health statement Sunday.

And the pool of those eligible to be vaccinated is set to further widen next month. Starting March 15, people ages 16 to 64 who are disabled or at high risk for morbidity and mortality from COVID-19 will be able to receive vaccinations in California — expanding the total number of residents who can get the shots to 17 million to 20 million.

But officials warn that actually getting a shot will be challenging until more supplies are available.

Times staff writer Colleen Shalby contributed to this report.