COVID vaccine: When and how Angelenos get it

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A health worker prepares a COVID-19 vaccine shot at Disneyland, which recently became a vaccination site. January 13, 2021. Photo by Laura Kondourajian /KCRW.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said again this week that he expects the “new normal” to be around the corner, with theaters and music venues reopening in the fall.

But in LA County right now, COVID-19 is killing one person every eight minutes. California Governor Gavin Newsom said earlier this week the state has vaccinated fewer than 800,000 people, even as millions of shots sit ready in freezers.

Newsom announced today that California would be following the new CDC recommendations to prioritize anyone age 65 and older. That could mean changes to the current estimated timelines.

Why is vaccination taking so long?

“I don’t think the vaccine is the limiting factor at this point,” says Felipe Osorno with USC Keck Medicine. “It’s really trying to move through the cases as quickly as possible, not holding those who have vaccines back. And then for us, it’s staffing. It just takes a lot of people.” 

LA County has also suffered from technical glitches in its vaccine record system. 

California has divided the first phase of vaccinations into three tiers, which slowed the rollout. Plus, places like USC have started the rollout by only vaccinating employees, as a pilot program. The smaller the pool, the slower the rollout.

But Governor Gavin Newsom says vaccines will be coming out faster. 

Dodger Stadium is switching from a testing site to a vaccination site this week. It has the capacity to vaccinate 12,000 people per day, 20 times the rate at Keck. 

The state also recommended speeding up the process by vaccinating everyone in the first phase, regardless of where hospitals were in the tier process. Dentists, pharmacists, and EMTs have been added to the list of people who can vaccinate. All of that has local officials hopeful that we’ll move to phase 1B in the beginning of February.

When’s my turn?

This could change, but currently LA health officials estimate 1B Tier One will begin in early February, followed by 1B Tier Two. 1C could begin as early as the end of March.

Most counties in California are still vaccinating phase 1A, which includes health care workers and long-term care residents.

1B Tier One includes people working in education, child care, food and agriculture, and emergency services.

1B Tier Two includes incarcerated and homeless individuals, and people working in critical manufacturing, industrial, commercial, residential and sheltering facilities and services, transportation and logistics.

1C includes people ages 50 and up, anyone over 16 with certain underlying health conditions, and people working in water, energy, hazardous materials, communications and IT, government operations, and financial services.

But that plan might change because a new president is getting sworn in next week. “The current federal administration says they might issue new guidelines. So we don't know how that’s going to impact us going forward,” says Osorno.

How do I sign up?

Right now, there’s no one place to sign up. Most of the people currently eligible have been notified by their employers. New locations are being added daily. Governor Gavin Newsom says next week the state will unveil an alert system, where people will receive an email or text when they become eligible for a vaccine, but the details have not been announced yet.

USC Keck said they’ll open their vaccination sites to the community next week and will email their eligible patients. Others will be notified through their employers once their group becomes available. Otherwise, there’ll be pharmacies, vaccination sites at hospitals, and places like Dodger Stadium. 

The latest information is always changing. LA County’s public health website and the state’s public health website have the most up-to-date guidelines.

Credits

Host:
Steve Chiotakis

Producers:
Christian Bordal, Jenna Kagel

Reporter:
Caleigh Wells