LA County prepared to expand vaccinations to teachers, frontline workers

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Los Angeles County is ready to soon expand vaccination appointments to teachers and essential workers.

Vaccine eligibility is expected to expand starting next week, but the availability of appointments will depend on how many doses the county expects to receive - and county officials won't know that figure for another day.

There will be nearly 400 sites in L.A. County administering the vaccines. The new people eligible will include food and agriculture workers, teachers and other education and childcare workers, and emergency services employees and first responders.

The expansion comes even as more good news is on the horizon, with Johnson & Johnson saying its new vaccine could be available in a matter of days.

The FDA says the Johnson & Johnson vaccine meets the requirements for emergency use authorization and that could happen as early as Friday. The company says it could have 20 million doses available by March and 100 million by the end of June.

The vaccine was 85% effective at preventing severe illness and the data shows it works against all variants, even the highly contagious South African variant, although it is less effective.

It only needs one dose and it doesn't need extreme refrigeration like the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
Los Angeles County public health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said that could represent a nice boost to the county's vaccination efforts.

"Lots of people are going to be very happy when we start getting Johnson & Johnson," Ferrer said. "Just one dose. That means you come in once for your vaccination and then you're done."

The county website is not yet accepting appointments for the expanded group next week, until the county learns how many doses it expects to receive.

Once that starts, about 25-29% of the available appointments are expected to be allocated for teachers and other school staff. The county is developing a priority-based system for school districts based on poverty level and coronavirus case rates in the district's community.

Latest LA County numbers

Even as vaccination efforts expand, Los Angeles County continues to report more new cases and deaths than it saw before the holiday surge.

The county reported 136 new deaths Wednesday and 2,157 new cases. The county has now seen a total of 20,987 deaths from COVID-19.

That total deaths figure was adjusted upward by 806 deaths recently after county officials discovered a number of coronavirus-related deaths that were not reported through the normal paperwork process, but were found in a check of death certificates. Those 806 deaths occurred during the holiday surge from Dec. 3 to Feb. 3.

Since the pandemic started, the county has reported 1,185,457 cases of COVID-19.

Ferrer said as of last week the county was averaging about 72 deaths a day from COVID-19. By comparison, in early November the average was around 14 deaths a day.

"While we've come to the other side of the terrible surge, it's important to remember we did so with tremendous heartbreak, illness and death," Ferrer said.
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