L.A. expands operations at COVID-19 vaccine sites, aims to deliver most weekly shots ever

COVID-19 vaccine sites run by the city of Los Angeles will be open six days this week as part of a wider effort to expand access amid declining local demand for the doses.

Along with the additional operating day, city officials said they will provide more opportunities for people to get vaccinated without having to make an appointment and open a new clinic with expanded night hours.

A wireless emergency alert containing vaccine information will also be sent citywide Monday afternoon, according to Mayor Eric Garcetti.

“Our city and country stand at a critical turning point in our fight to defeat COVID-19 — and just as we have in every phase of this crisis, we are meeting the moment with urgent action: by rolling up our sleeves and getting shots into the arms of every Angeleno,” he said in a statement Sunday.

L.A.’s vaccine sites at Cal State L.A., Hansen Dam, San Fernando Park, Lincoln Park, Pierce College, Crenshaw Christian Center, Los Angeles Southwest College, USC, Century City and — for the moment — Dodger Stadium will operate Monday through Saturday this week.

The city’s eight mobile clinics will remain on their typical Tuesday through Saturday schedule.

Appointment-free vaccinations also will be available at all mobile sites as well as the locations at Lincoln Park, San Fernando Park, Pierce College, USC, L.A. Southwest College, Century City and Cal State L.A., officials said.

One clinic, at the South Park Recreation Center, will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. — providing a nighttime option for those whose schedules would otherwise make it difficult to get vaccinated.

All told, city officials estimate they will have the capacity to administer about 260,000 doses this week, the most ever.

“Los Angeles has enough doses to keep our momentum going, protect our communities against new variants and end this pandemic,” Garcetti said. “So we all need to do our part to encourage our families, friends, co-workers and neighbors to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”

The revamped operations come as the city and county of Los Angeles, like many areas of the nation, are seeing falling demand for the vaccines — a trend officials worry could slow, if not stymie, the quest to achieve the level of herd immunity needed to finally put the COVID-19 pandemic in the rearview mirror.

Experts estimate that a significant share of the population, usually pegged at or above 80%, would need to get vaccinated to deprive the coronavirus of new people to infect.

About 54% of L.A. County residents 16 and older had received at least one vaccine dose as of April 28, public health data show. But only about 36% of Angelenos in that age range are fully vaccinated — meaning they’ve received either the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine or both required doses of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna.

Roughly half of all Californians have received at least one shot to date, and 31.7% are fully vaccinated, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, there are signs that the rollout is slowing. Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said last week that first-dose appointments have decreased by about 50% in L.A. County.

“For the first time ever, we’ve had appointments at many vaccination sites that have not been filled,” she said during a briefing Thursday.

While eliminating barriers to vaccine access and availability is one key piece of the puzzle, officials say an increasingly important part of the strategy moving forward needs to be convincing those who may be on the fence about getting inoculated.

According to estimates from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which are based on survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau, only about 11% of Californians are thought to be vaccine hesitant, a lower rate than in all but four states.

However, reluctance to receive the vaccine is not uniform across the state, and having high levels of resistance in particular pockets would still give the coronavirus ample opportunities to spread.

To address the concerns of holdouts, health officials regularly point to the high level of protection the vaccines provide against COVID-19.

Along with that pragmatic push is a tantalizing pull: the prospect of getting back to pre-pandemic normalcy.

In California, which continues to record one of the lowest coronavirus case rates in the nation, many long-imposed restrictions on businesses are being relaxed or rescinded — allowing residents more freedom to go grab a bite to eat, see a movie or even visit Disneyland.

The state’s hospitals, once stretched to their limits, are now caring for fewer coronavirus-positive patients than at almost any other point during the pandemic.

And the number of Californians dying from COVID-19 has also tumbled. L.A. County reported no new deaths related to COVID-19 on Sunday — a figure that, though likely an undercount because of weekend reporting delays, nonetheless represents the progress the region has made in beating back the pandemic.

Conditions have improved to the point that officials have even set a target date to fully reopen the state’s economy: June 15.

But that progress, while hopeful, isn’t inevitable, officials warn. Staying on the recovery path will require more Californians to be vaccinated and, in the meantime, continued adherence to the public health protocols that have been put in place to blunt coronavirus transmission.

“As more L.A. County residents and workers are vaccinated, the risk of transmission of variants is significantly reduced and we get back to the many activities that we loved to do before the pandemic,” Ferrer said in a statement.

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