July 23, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

When do I get my 2nd L.A. COVID vaccine dose?

Los Angeles County residents eagerly awaiting their second dose of COVID-19 vaccines should keep an eye on their email, officials said this week.

Those who rolled up their sleeves at a county-run vaccination site will receive a direct message allowing them to confirm the necessary follow-up appointments, according to the county’s Department of Public Health.

People who got the shot at a vaccine site run by the city of Los Angelessuch as Dodger Stadium — will automatically be scheduled for a second appointment, officials said, and should receive a text message and email with the details.

County officials said most Angelenos will receive their second shots at the same place where they got their first dose, but it’s possible some residents will be instructed to go to a different location.

It is important that the second dose, wherever received, is the same vaccine as the first. For the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the recommended wait time between shots is 21 days. For the Moderna therapeutic, it’s 28 days.

“Please try to keep your appointments for the second dose,” county public health officials wrote Monday on Facebook. “If you need to reschedule due to an emergency, you will be provided with an email address to contact us. We know this process has been stressful and we deeply appreciate your patience.”

Those who were vaccinated at a pharmacy, community clinic or hospital should contact those facilities directly if they have questions about the details of their second dose appointment.

“All vaccination sites receive enough second doses each week to schedule appointments for individuals who received their first dose at their site,” county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said during a briefing Monday. “I do apologize for the many hardships that people have been experiencing trying to secure appointments.”

More information is available at vaccinatelacounty.com and corona-virus.la/covid-19-vaccine.

Concerns over the availability of second doses, as well as the logistical challenges inherent in scheduling them, are just the latest that have emerged during an at-times chaotic vaccine rollout that’s been plagued by shifting eligibility criteria, overloaded online appointment systems and other technical hiccups.

As pressing as those issues are, they’re secondary to what officials say is the biggest hurdle of all: an insufficient, and at-times unreliable, supply of the shots themselves.

Healthcare workers, first responders and residents and staff in skilled nursing facilities were the first groups eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in California. That suddenly changed in mid-January, when Gov. Gavin Newsom expanded the pool to include people 65 and older.

While some greeted the news that older Californians — who have fallen severely ill and died from COVID-19 at distressingly disproportionate rates throughout the pandemic — were being given a place in line, the state’s move came at a time when vaccine doses remained strained, and sparked chaos and confusion as some counties moved quickly to allow seniors to enter their queues, while others did not.

Dramatically swelling the number of people eligible to be vaccinated also strained the availability of shots.

In L.A. County, older residents were able to schedule vaccine appointments beginning the week of Jan. 18, meaning second doses will have to start going out next week.

However, the number of doses the county receives has been inconsistent and trending downward. For the week of Jan. 11, L.A. County received 193,950 vaccine doses; the following week, it received only 168,575 doses and only 146,225 doses the week after that.

Given the relatively scarce supply, vaccines will need to increasingly be set aside for second doses — leaving fewer shots for people looking to begin the regimen.

Last week, the L.A. County Public Health Department, acting at the request of the California Department of Public Health, “recovered” 10,000 doses from Ralphs pharmacies that were intended for upcoming appointments — allocating them instead to support the county’s mass vaccination sites.

While a spokesman for the supermarket chain said only people seeking their first dose would be affected and that those scheduled to get their second dose would still get their shots, the episode underscored how the need for second doses is overriding overwhelming demand for initial inoculations.

The move also added to confusion among residents over 65. According to the county, those who received their first shot at Ralphs before Jan. 27 will get a call or email directly from the pharmacy to schedule their second dose. Those inoculated after that date will be given appointments for their second dose when they get their first dose.

A vaccine shortage is not just L.A., either. Kaiser Permanente was forced to cancel more than 5,000 appointments for seniors in Santa Clara County because of limited supplies.

Despite the problems that have dogged the rollout, there are some signs that California may be starting to build momentum.

About 7.2% of Californians have received at least one dose, data compiled by The Times show. Nearly 61% of the state’s vaccine supply has been administered — a dramatic improvement from a week ago, but still behind other big states like Texas, Illinois and New York, and only slightly ahead of Florida.

Changes are also on the horizon. Officials announced last week that advisors to Newsom have struck an agreement with Blue Shield of California to oversee distribution of vaccine doses to counties, pharmacies and private healthcare providers.

Newsom has also announced that California will shift vaccine priority to an age-based eligibility structure — with the hope of creating a framework that’s easier to understand and quicker to implement.

Details of that overhaul remain scant, however, and the concept has already drawn criticism from groups representing some essential workers and disabled people who stand to potentially lose their place in line.

Times staff writers Maya Lau, Laura J. Nelson, Colleen Shalby and Maura Dolan contributed to this report.