LA County Steps Up Mobile Vaccination Efforts to Target Lagging Communities

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - More than 230 mobile COVID-19 vaccination sites will be in operation this week in Los Angeles County, the highest level of the pandemic, as inoculation efforts continue shifting from large-scale locations to localized outreach efforts targeting under-represented communities.

According to statistics released Monday, 65% of the county's population age 16 and over have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, while 54% -- or roughly 4.5 million people -- are fully vaccinated.

While those numbers put the county generally on pace to reach the federal goal of a 70% vaccination rate by July 4, lagging rates among young Black and Latino residents continue to vex the effort.

“There is so much more work to be done, especially with respect to vaccine disparities,'' County Supervisor Hilda Solis said during an online briefing. “Young Black and Latinx individuals aged 29 and below are being vaccinated at half the rate of white and Asian residents 29 and below. Overall, 41% of Black residents and 48% of Latinx residents age 16 and above have been vaccinated, compared to 71% of Asian and 63% of white residents.

“We can and we must do better, and given the diverse resources and opportunities available right here in L.A. County, we are in a unique position to do this,'' she said.

The county on Monday began phasing out its large-scale vaccination sites. The large site at Cal State Northridge closed at the end of the day, with operations shifting to the Balboa Sports Complex in Encino.

According to the county, people who received their first dose at CSUN will get their second dose at the Balboa site. Residents in need of transportation to the site can call 833-540-0473 to arrange a free ride.

The other large-scale sites run by the county -- at the Forum in Inglewood, the Pomona Fairplex and the county Office of Education in Downey -- will close at the end of the day June 13. Beginning June 15, smaller sites will be opened at:

-- Ted Watkins Memorial Park, 1335 E. 103rd St., Los Angeles;

-- Commerce Senior Citizens Center, 2555 Commerce Way; and

-- Norwalk Arts & Sports Complex, 13000 Clarkdale Ave.

Those three sites will operate from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.

A total of 237 mobile vaccination sites will be operating in the county this week, “the highest number of sites we've had in a one-week period to date,'' said Dr. Muntu Davis, the county's health officer.

“We're directing a lot of resources toward mobile vaccination sites out of a real sense of urgency to get as many residents vaccinated as we can before June 15 and beyond,'' Davis said, referencing the date the state will lift the vast majority of COVID-19 restrictions.

“... We recognize that for many people, being able to get your vaccine in a public location like a Metro station, a retail store, a community or faith-based organization or an outdoor recreation space in or closer to your neighborhood makes it more convenient,'' he said.

According to Davis, there will be 765 sites overall across the county offering COVID-19 vaccines this week.

Solis said multiple factors appear to be contributing to lower vaccination rates among young Black and Latino residents.

“We still find there are people who still don't have all the right information as to where to locate and actually receive the vaccination, and it's particularly in that age group 29 and younger,'' she said. “And we really do need to do more to get them engaged. And part of it is also misinformation, hesitancy. The best thing I can tell you is someone who has gotten vaccinated should talk about that to others and share the experience. And the fact that you have more opportunities when you are vaccinated. You can go out and do a lot more things.''

The county reported another three more COVID-19 deaths on Monday, and 134 new cases -- numbers that were typically low for a Monday, due to reporting lags from the weekend.

The new fatalities lifted the county's overall death toll to 24,392, while a cumulative total of 1,245,253 cases have been reported.

According to state figures, there were 232 people hospitalized due to COVID-19 in the county as of Monday, with 37 people in intensive care.

Until this Thursday, anyone who gets a first-dose vaccine at a county- or city-run vaccination site, or at a St. John's Well Child and Family Center site, will be entered for a chance to win season tickets to the Dodgers or Los Angeles Football Club. The contest is open to anyone receiving a first dose, or people receiving a second dose who bring another person with them to be vaccinated.

The state of California, meanwhile, is offering financial motivation to encourage people to get vaccinated. On Friday, the state held the first of two planned drawings, awarding $50,000 in cash to 15 people who have been vaccinated. A second drawing will be held this Friday, to pick another 15 winners.

On June 15, the date the state is scheduled to lift the majority of its COVID-19 restrictions, the state will draw the names of 10 vaccinated residents, each of whom will receive $1.5 million.

While most restrictions will go away on June 15, county health officials stressed that workplaces will still be subject to rules imposed by the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration. A Cal-OSHA board on Thursday approved recommendations that would continue to mandate masks for everyone at work sites, unless everyone in the room is vaccinated. If anyone in the room is not vaccinated, masks will be required for everyone, regardless of vaccine status.

The new rules, which still need final state approval, would allow businesses to do away with physical distancing and partitions/barriers, if employers make respirators such as N95 masks available to unvaccinated workers.

The workplace rules have drawn criticism for running counter to guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has proclaimed that vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks in most situations. If given final state approval, however, the Cal-OSHA rules will take precedence.

Photo: Getty Images

Copyright 2021, City News Service, Inc.

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