As COVID Vaccine Eligibility Expands, Supply Will Dip In LA County

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - On a week that eligibility for COVID-19 vaccinations will expand to everyone aged 16 and over, Los Angeles County will see a dip in its supply of doses due to what is expected to be a temporary shortfall in availability of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson shots.  

But while the decline in the county-controlled supply is concerning -- and poorly timed given the upcoming expansion this Thursday -- there are still expected to be about a half-million available doses in the county, thanks to other non-county or city providers who receive direct allocations from the state and federal governments.  

“Taken together, we estimate that well over 500,000 doses of vaccine will be allocated to vaccination sites across the county next week,'' said Dr. Paul Simon, chief science officer for the county Department of Public Health.  

“Now that we have expanded eligibility for vaccinations to all adults 50 and older and will soon be expanding to all adults and adolescents down to age 16 effective April 15, I want to urge all employers to give your employees time to get vaccinated,'' he said. “We expect a rush for appointments in the coming weeks and employees will need as much flexibility as possible to navigate this process and get their vaccinations as soon as possible.''  

The county's allocation of vaccine for next week is expected to total 323,470, Simon said. That's a roughly 74,000-dose drop from this week, with the reduction due to a major drop in availability of the Johnson & Johnson single- dose vaccine. The county received about 97,000 doses of that vaccine this week, but will only receive about 20,000 next week.  

Simon said the county's allocations of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will both increase, but not enough to make up for the Johnson & Johnson dropoff. He said he remains confident that the Johnson & Johnson supply will rebound in coming weeks, and overall, the county is on track to get much of the adult population vaccinated by early summer.  

“At the pace we're going, we will be able to get where we want to be by late June, as long as people continue to present for a vaccination,'' Simon said. “... But over a several week period as things open up -- and we've seen this in the past as other groups became newly eligible -- there is that rush over a period of a week or two, and there's just no getting around that.  

“So I think we will be urging the public to be patient, but we are confident we will be able to serve everybody's needs over the coming weeks,'' he said.  

Simon also noted that when everyone 16 and up becomes eligible, it creates a further challenge for people who have less access to online appointment sites, as a wider portion of the population with greater computer access crowds them out.  

“We are quite concerned with this opening up of eligibility ... that those with less resources, less ability to navigate these online appointment systems or faced with waits on our call line will have more difficulty getting appointments,'' he said. “And that could have the unfortunate consequence of worsening these disparities. ... And so we are going to be working really, really hard to make sure we work with the community organizations that are serving these communities to make it at little bit easier for them to get appointments.''  

As of April 4, a total of 4,715,894 doses of vaccine have been administered in the county, including 1,652,149 second doses. Simon noted that number represented an increase of 702,000 over the previous nine days, meaning an average of about 78,000 doses administered daily during that span.  

Of residents aged 65 and older, 70.2% have received at least one dose of the vaccine, along with 37.1% of residents aged 16 and up. That number will rise quickly after next Thursday, when everyone aged 16 and older becomes eligible for the shots.  

While Black and Latino residents continue to lag behind their white and Asian counterparts in getting vaccines, the gap is narrowing, Simon said. But he also pointed to another disparity in vaccine distribution -- men versus women. Thus far, 30% of males aged 16 or older in the county have received at least one dose, compared to 43.8% of females.  

“In every racial ethnic group ... vaccination coverage is lower in males than females, with the lowest rates among Latino males at 17.1% and Black males at 19%,'' Simon said. “We will be developing tailored messaging and outreach to increase vaccination coverage among men, again with a particular focus on the hardest-hit communities where residents have had more difficulty accessing vaccination services.''  

On Friday, the county reported another 48 COVID-19 deaths, lifting the death toll from throughout the pandemic to 23,431.  

The county also announced another 752 new cases, while Long Beach reported 65 and Pasadena six, raising the cumulative total since the pandemic began to 1,224,574.  

According to state figures, which generally pace a day ahead of numbers provided by the county, there were 508 people hospitalized in Los Angeles County due to COVID on Friday, down from 540 on Thursday. There were 123 people in intensive care, up slightly from 139 on Thursday.

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

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