LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn says she would like a system set up to make sure any unused COVID-19 vaccines are given out and not thrown away before they expire. Her suggestion comes after a report of unused doses being discarded, which the county denied Thursday.
Hahn advocated setting up infrastructure to notify people 65 and older if a slot to get vaccinated opens up.
"I'm suggesting that we begin immediately having a wait list where people 65 and older can sign up for and then, if this ever happens at any of these places, they will be the first people called to be called to show up and get a vaccine as soon as possible," Hahn said Thursday. "Yesterday, we had 288 people pass away - 200 of them were over 65."
L.A. County Public Health says it is not directing any providers to throw away unused doses, and it has swiftly set up vaccine clinics when it learns of potential vaccine expirations.
"Although the priority now is to vaccinate frontline healthcare workers and residents in long-term health facilities, Los Angeles County has allowed for exceptions in the vaccination plan to be made in order to prevent any vaccine wastage, as is detailed on page 8 of the department's guidance," the department said in a statement in response to the news report.
The agency's vaccine guidance document states that vaccine provider should administer doses to highest-priority groups -- most notably health care workers -- and there should be "sufficient outreach and mobilization before proceeding to the next group. However, exceptions may be made in order to prevent any vaccine wastage."
The guidance does not provide specific definitions of those "exceptions" or details on how far down the priority list providers can go to avoid wasting doses.
But health officials insisted that they do not advocate wasting any doses under any circumstances, saying the health agency "will investigate any reports of vaccine waste or misuse," and instruction people with knowledge of such waste to email email@example.com.
The county is still in Phase 1A of the vaccine distribution matrix, with doses earmarked only for health care workers and residents and staff of skilled nursing and long-term care facilities.
While the state says people 65 and older can get the COVID vaccine, L.A. County health officials say they do not have adequate doses locally yet to start opening up vaccinations to that group.
L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Wednesday the county doesn't have enough vaccines and has requested more to finish vaccinating health care workers first. Dodger Stadium is currently being transformed into a mass vaccination site, and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said the site will open Friday to those eligible.
Individual counties or health departments have the discretion in terms of how to expand vaccine priority.
Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia announced Thursday the start of the next round of vaccinations for the city. People 65 and older are eligible starting Saturday, grocery store workers on Tuesday, followed by education employees. The city has its own health department separate from L.A. County, and receives its own allocations of vaccines.
Garcia, who lost his mother and stepfather to the virus, says he's moved to see thousands of others get vaccinated over the past month.
The Long Beach Convention Center is being turned into a mass vaccination center. The city is requiring people who are getting vaccinated to provide proof of residency or employment in Long Beach.
Appointments to be vaccinated during that clinic are already full, but Garcia said people can register for a future appointment by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 562-570-4636.
City News Service contributed to this report.