LA County unveils COVID vaccine distribution plan, expecting nearly 83K doses as early as next week

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- As Los Angeles County reported 12,819 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, breaking its daily record since the start of the pandemic, public health officials rolled out their plan for how vaccines will be distributed once available.

County health officials are preparing the massive undertaking of administering vaccinations to millions of residents, vowing the process will be done equitably based on health priorities.

"Equity is a fundamental principle here," the county's Chief Science Officer Dr. Paul Simon said during an online media briefing. "We want to make sure all people have access, and that those that are at greatest risk either because of higher risk of exposure, or greater risk of severe illness because of chronic health conditions or other factors have more immediate access to the vaccine."

Simon stressed that initial doses of the vaccine will be strictly designated for health care workers and staff and residents of long-term care facilities. The county anticipates receiving nearly 83,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine as early as next week, with the allotment then distributed to nine ultra-cold storage sites for subsequent delivery to 83 acute-care hospitals.

Those hospitals will then prioritize the administration of the doses, following state guidelines developed in consultation with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccines for long-term care staff and residents will be distributed via a federal contract with CVS and Walgreens.

Simon said that after the initial distribution, the county expects to receive roughly 250,000 more doses the following week, and another 150,000 the week after that, with weekly deliveries of up to 250,000 doses anticipated beginning in the new year.

After the distribution to health care workers and long-term care staff and residents is completed, under "Phase 1A" of the plan, Priority will then move to "essential workers" and then people at highest risk of severe illness from the virus, such as seniors or those with underlying health conditions.

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This plan comes as the region rapidly approaches capacity in intensive care units. ICU capacity for the Southern California region, as lined out by the state, is currently at 7.7%, which is why officials have their eyes set on the vaccine.

The county's daily hospitalizations has seen an alarming upward trend -- with more than 3,600, including 800 in ICU beds.

Mayor Eric Garcetti describes the numbers as the most devastating since the pandemic's start. In L.A. County, someone has died from COVID-19 every 20 minutes, according to Garcetti.

The mayor offered some perspective on the spike in cases during a virtual press conference Thursday: "12,819 new infections -- that's 2,000 more than the worst day we've ever had. It's happening so quickly, sometimes we can't even take in these numbers. That's up 128% since last week, 300% since last month, 1,000% since a month and a half ago."

The city of Long Beach, which has its own independent public health department, on Thursday also outlined its plans for distributing the vaccine.

Officials there say Long Beach will receive 3,900 doses of the Pfizer vaccine this month and 11,600 doses of the Moderna vaccine in January.

The plan is to distribute it first to medical workers at Long Beach Memorial, St Mary's Medical Center, Miller Children's Hospital and other facilities in the city.

"What we can all agree on is the first folks who should be vaccinated are the folks that need our support. Our medical workers, our essential workers," said Mayor Robert Garcia.

However, as various dates for the distribution of the vaccines begin to float around, officials are finding not everyone wants to take it -- at least not right away.

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Simon said a recent survey showed about 11% of the county's population said they would not take the vaccine, while 23% said they would.

"And then this very large, you know, group of about 60 to 70% that were unsure (and) sort of wanted to wait and see."

And officials are finding not everyone wants to take the vaccine, at least not right away.

City News Service contributed to this report.
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