What to know about vaccinations at LA County-run sites this week as supply runs low

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Amid a COVID-19 vaccine shortage, Los Angeles County-run vaccination sites will only be administering second doses starting Tuesday and lasting through the end of the week.

The shift is being made for people who received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine and need their second one after 21 days, said Manuel Martinez with the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

County officials reported slow but steady progress in coronavirus vaccination efforts on Friday, but said less than 3% of the population has been fully vaccinated, and appointments for first doses will be difficult to come by for the time being.

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There is more capacity at Los Angeles County's five vaccination super sites than there are vaccines to go around. Starting Tuesday, the county will shift its priorities from first dose vaccinations to those people in need of a second dose.

At the seven county-operated large-scale vaccination sites, a limited number of first doses will be administered on Monday, with the rest of the week's appointments are reserved solely for people in need of their second dose of the medication, according to Dr. Paul Simon, chief science officer for the county health department. To make an appointment, you must also provide documentation.

The county is currently in Phase 1B of vaccine eligibility, which includes people age 65 and older, with the next group consisting of educators, teachers, childcare workers, food and agriculture workers and emergency responders.

"So many people want to get vaccinated. This site here could accommodate easily 4,000 people getting vaccinated a day, really 4,000 cars, and we just don't have vaccines. Today, we were only able to release 1,100 appointments," said Barbara Ferrer, L.A. County public health director.

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Simon said while only the county's seven vaccine locations will solely administer second doses this week, residents may run into issues at other locations as all providers deal with short supplies of vaccines.

"Unfortunately, the biggest issue we continue to face in our ability to vaccinate is the scarcity of supply and variability in the amount of vaccine we receive from week-to-week,'' Simon said. "This has been an issue across the country and it makes planning challenging.''

According to Simon, the most recent figures indicate that more than 1.05 million vaccine doses have been administered in the county to date, including slightly more than 104,000 second doses. That means 2.6% of the county's population of people aged 16 and older have been fully vaccinated so far. About 11% of the 16-and-over population has received at least one dose.

The slow progress of the vaccination program has led to some residents getting creative in finding ways to manipulate the appointment system to get access to the shots.

Some people who aren't yet eligible to get the vaccine have taken to lingering at vaccination sites on the slight chance there will be leftover doses at the end of the day that must be administered to avoid wasting them. Ferrer said this week there have been issues with people claiming to be caretakers of disabled children and showing up at vaccine sites with a generic, Xeroxed letter identifying them as such.

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Simon outlined another way some people have tried to jump the line to get vaccines. According to Simon, people who received emails from the county about scheduling an appointment for a second dose of the vaccine have been sharing the unique web link included in the emails with friends. Those people "are then scheduling a first-dose appointment even though they are not eligible to be vaccinated at this time.''

"It is important for people to understand that these actions are taking away vaccination access from high-risk people who are eligible for the vaccine right now,'' Simon said. "When we identify these appointments, they are being canceled. I want the public to be aware that persons who are not eligible and show up at one of our sites with one of these shared appointments will be turned away.''

He said he didn't have numbers on how many people have tried to jump the line in that fashion, but "it was happening enough so that we were noticing it very clearly.''

Simon said the county was trying to figure out a way to amend the computer system to prevent such appointments from being made.

Gov. Gavin Newsom discussed the vaccine shortage issue at a briefing held at San Diego's Petco Park on Monday.

"We are sobered and mindful of the scarcity that is the number of available vaccines in the United States of America. Nonetheless, we are not naive about our responsibility here in the state of California to move these vaccines out of the freezers and into the people's arms," the governor said.

Newsom said the state is administering nearly 200,000 vaccine doses a day, which is double the number from just a few weeks ago. But Newsom said the state still needs more help.

"So we're making progress, we're improving the rate of administration day in and day out, but we can't do that at the state level without partners at the local level," he said.

City News Service contributed to this report.
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