On Monday, vaccination sites run by Los Angeles County began taking appointments for essential workers in education and child care, food and agriculture, and law enforcement and emergency services -- but health officials said those workers will have to be patient as vaccine supplies remain limited and staff are being trained to ensure only eligible people receive shots.
The newly eligible groups include an estimated 1.2 million people in Los Angeles County.
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"Therefore, it will take considerable time to vaccinate these groups, unless vaccine supply significantly increases,'' said Dr. Paul Simon, chief science officer for the county Department of Public Health. We urge the public's patience as we work through this process as quickly as possible.''
Los Angeles County residents can visit vaccinatelacounty.com to book appointments, or myturn.ca.gov for eligibility questions.
Residents aged 65 and older also remain eligible for the shots, and the county's public health director said Wednesday roughly 700,000 of them are yet to receive their first dose. Health care workers are also still being vaccinated, along with residents and staff of long-term care and nursing facilities.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Sunday that the city's COVID-19 vaccination sites will reopen Tuesday, with eligibility aligning with the newly expanded pool. City sites will primarily provide second doses this week, and offer a small number of first-dose appointments throughout the week, as doses remain limited.
The city's online portal will be updated Monday to allow workers in food and agriculture, education and childcare, and emergency services and first responders make first-dose appointments.
"Our vaccination program has weathered many challenges, but we have made it clear that nothing will interfere with our mission to deliver this life-saving vaccine to Angelenos as quickly and as safely as possible,'' Garcetti said.
"Opening eligibility to more groups of essential workers will save more lives and accelerate our recovery. We are encouraged to hear commitments for more vaccines coming from our federal and state partners, and stand ready to scale up our operations so we can end this pandemic.''
The city expects to receive 70,000 doses of Moderna vaccine on Monday, which will primarily serve second doses across its six mass vaccination sites: San Fernando Park, Hansen Dam, Crenshaw Christian Center, Lincoln Park, Pierce College, and Dodger Stadium.
Sites will operate this week from Tuesday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., with the exception of Dodger Stadium, which will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. A small number of first dose appointments at Pierce College will be available online throughout the week.
All second doses for this week are being automatically scheduled for patients who received their first dose at a city site between Feb. 1 and Feb. 6. Patients will receive notification with appointment details by Sunday evening.
The city's mobile sites will also triple their total capacity this week, increasing the doses administered to vulnerable communities from 4,000 to 12,000, officials said.
Garcetti's office also said the city has begun the planning process to integrate the recently FDA-authorized Johnson & Johnson vaccine into its inventory in the coming weeks.
On Friday, Simon said L.A. County expects to receive a total of 269,000 doses this week, up from 211,000 last week. With the county setting aside many doses for people who are due for the second shot of the two-dose regimen, a total of 103,000 doses will be available this week for the three sectors of workers and for people aged 65 and over.
Of those 103,000 doses:
"This allocation is proportional to the size of the population in each sector as well as the size of the unvaccinated 65-plus population in the county,'' he said.
Workers in each of the sectors will also have to prove they are eligible to receive a vaccine. Full details are listed on the county's website.
"For each sector, workers will be required to show proof of their identity, with a photo ID, and proof that they reside or work in L.A. County,'' Simon said. "A government ID is not required, just some identification with a photo. Demonstrating that they work in one of the eligible sectors will also be required, and there are a number of ways to provide documentation.''
He said some of the ways people can provide documentation is a employee badge with the names of the worker and the employer, a pay stub with an address, a California food handler card or some other type of official license.
Simon said the county is well aware of issues with people jumping the line to get vaccinated and sometimes-varying identification demands made by workers at vaccination sites. But he said efforts are being made to eliminate those issues.
"We are training our staff as I speak,'' he said. "And we will continue that over the weekend. We do anticipate though, that next week will be a learning process. We're hoping it'll go as smoothly as possible, but I'm sure there will be some mid-course corrections next week if we see any issues of concern.''
Much attention during the expansion of the vaccination effort is likely to be placed on the speed of inoculating teachers, with pressure mounting to re-open school campuses for in-person instruction. Many teachers' unions, including the one representing Los Angeles Unified School District educators, are pushing for school staff to be vaccinated before in-person classes resume.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has mandated that 10% of all vaccine supply received in the state be immediately set aside for teachers, child care workers and other school staff. But dividing the education allocation among the 80 school districts in Los Angeles County will be a weekly challenge.
To address the issue, the county has devised a complex formula aimed at doling out the vaccine in an equitable manner.
Of the doses allocated to the education sector each week, 9% will be automatically directed to private schools in the county, reflecting the percentage of county students they serve.
The 80 individual school districts in the county - excluding those in Long Beach and Pasadena, which have their own health departments - will be divided into five groups. Remaining available doses will be divided among those groups based on a formula that evaluates factors of overall student enrollment; the percentage of students living in poverty -- based on those eligible for free or reduced-price lunches; COVID case rates in each community; and whether schools have already been providing in-person services for higher-need students.
The formula means the LAUSD -- the second-largest school district in the nation -- will likely receive about 40% of available education-sector doses each week.
The state has authorized shots beginning March 15 for anyone aged 16 and over with an underlying health condition that puts them at higher risk for severe illness or death from COVID.
Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Wednesday it's still unclear whether the county will actually expand eligibility to that group on March 15. She said the county is waiting for more details from the state about how that expansion will work, and whether the county can realistically offer those shots given continued limited vaccine supply.