FAQ: Here’s what you need to know now about getting a coronavirus vaccine in LA County

FAQ: Here’s what you need to know now about getting a coronavirus vaccine in LA County

With all the developments arising this week in Los Angeles County, there’s a pretty good chance you are confused about whether you are eligible to get a coronavirus vaccine, how you sign up and where you should go to get your shot. We’ll try to answer your questions.

1. I am 65 years old and I live in Los Angeles County. Can I get a vaccine?

Appointments will be available for L.A. County residents 65 years old and older starting Tuesday afternoon at VaccinateLACounty.com. The first appointments can be made for Wednesday at any of the five large vaccination centers along with dozens of other sites throughout the county. Officials will continue simultaneously vaccinating healthcare workers and residents at long-term care facilities.

Either way, getting an appointment won’t be easy at first. There are still not enough vaccines for all 1.3 million seniors to be vaccinated right away. The county has received 685,000 doses so far and has administered roughly 70% of those. About 168,000 doses were arriving this week. Officials urged patience as they work to vaccinate thousands of people every day.

2. Do I need an appointment?

Absolutely. Walk-ups are not accepted. For those without internet access, appointments can be made by calling (833) 540-0473

3. Public health officials say they aren’t getting enough vaccine doses. Why are they moving ahead to widen the rollout to include seniors if the supply is so thin?

Following a Centers for Disease Control recommendation, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that counties could offer the vaccine to individuals 65 and older, who are at the most risk of serious illness. The goal is to get as many vaccines into people’s arms as possible.

Public health officials in L.A. County first said that was unwise because they did not have enough doses to move beyond healthcare workers and long-term care residents. They now believe they can also vaccinate those 65 and older without delaying shots healthcare workers.

Still, they’re asking residents for patience if they cannot get inoculated right away.

4. Why is the supply so small? Why aren’t public health officials able to plan out the distribution of its doses?

The supply of coronavirus vaccine to each county or city-run health department was determined by the state and, ultimately, by the federal government.

The state received many fewer vaccines initially than they expected. That shortfall trickled down to the local level, where there were additional stumbling blocks as vaccines went out to hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

One official said vaccine shipments have been unpredictable. However, officials are hoping communication and planning improve with a new administration in Washington D.C.

5. If I get a first dose, how do I get a second?

From now on, officials say, everyone who receives a first dose of the vaccine will at the same time receive an appointment for the second dose. They’ll come roughly three weeks later for the Pfizer vaccine and two weeks later for the Moderna version.

6. With the recent confusion in L.A. County, can’t I just drive to a neighboring county to get my shot?

No. Counties and city-run health departments received vaccines only to inoculate their residents and healthcare workers within their boundaries.

While you might be able to schedule an appointment in another county, you will be required at the time of inoculation to show proof of identification — either showing where you live or where you work, if it is relevant.

Shots will not be given to those without proof of ID.

7. Long Beach and Pasadena are already giving shots to seniors. Can I go there to get mine?

No. Long Beach and Pasadena are checking identification and only administering vaccines to residents or people who work in health care within the city at this time.

However, people who live near Long Beach should watch for developments. Mayor Robert Garcia is talking with county officials about possibly vaccinating people in cities near Long Beach.

8. Do I need to start with my doctor to get vaccinated?

No. It is not necessary to contact your doctor and, in fact, health care systems such as Kaiser Permanente specifically advise against doing so because doctors are especially busy at this time.

9. I read about some people suffering side effects. Should I be concerned? Should I wait to get my shot?

The risk of adverse side effects from the coronavirus vaccine is very small. People with allergies, however, should be cautious.

Typical side effects include pain where the shot was given, fatigue, headache, chills, fever, and joint and muscle pain. These are all described as temporary.

The state epidemiologist put a pause on 330,000 Moderna vaccine doses Monday, Jan. 18, after less than 10 people had a severe allergic reaction. Health providers across the state were singling out the doses to be put aside until investigators with FDA, Moderna and California Department of Public Health determined the reason.

10. Why was the rollout expanded? Why should a healthy 65-year-old be in line ahead of someone younger who is in an essential job or has health issues that increase their risk?

People 65 and older are being prioritized because the vast majority of deaths that have occurred from COVID-19 were among people in this age category.

They account for more than 99,000 cases, 35,000 hospitalizations and 9,802 deaths in L.A. County.

Originally, those 75 and older were in a separate tier but officials recently merged those two groups.

Officials still predict essential workers will be eligible by early February.

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