Fewer people want coronavirus vaccines than are available now in LA County

Fewer people want coronavirus vaccines than are available now in LA County

For the first time this week Los Angeles County had more vaccines than people who wanted to get them, according to the Department of Public Health, marking a critical juncture for the county’s vaccine efforts as it reaches toward a goal of 80% of the eligible population vaccinated.

“That means 25% less people were vaccinated than the week before,” said Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer on Tuesday, May 4.

For those who want to get vaccinated, appointments should be more available and there are additional opportunities to receive a vaccine at walk-up sites. More than 125 mobile sites are operating near metro stations, shopping centers, grocery stores and elsewhere.

As of April 30, the county had fully vaccinated 39% of the population and 58% had received at least one dose. That amounts to more than 8 million total doses.

Among young people, vaccination rates are the lowest. They are highest, meanwhile, among those in the older age brackets, which is to be expected, say health officials, based on who was most at risk when the pandemic was peaking.

For those 65 and older, the county has fully vaccinated 65% and about 79% have had at least one dose.

“These numbers are something to be proud of and they do demonstrate excellent progress but we still have a ways to go to say that we have enough community vaccination to go back to life without fear,” Ferrer said.

The county amended its Health Officer Orders Friday mostly to align with Centers for Disease Control guidance around face masks for fully vaccinated people. The new guidance says they don’t need to wear a mask when they are not likely to be next to other people in crowded situations, according to Ferrer.

On Wednesday, the county was expected to amend its Health Officer Order to reflect changes under the yellow tier, based on the state’s Blueprint for Reopening, for which the county qualified on Tuesday based on continued low rates of cases and test positivity. This week the county posted 1.6 adjusted cases per 100,000 people and an overall test positivity rate of 0.7%.

Changes to the Health Officer Order will be published Wednesday and go into effect Thursday, Ferrer said. The revised order will generally allow increased capacity at indoor and outdoor settings, and it allows bars to reopen indoors at 25%.

“Week after week, these numbers prove that the hard work we are doing in our community to protect one another is allowing us to return to the activities that we cherish,” Ferrer said Tuesday, addressing the L.A. County Board of Supervisors. “I’m grateful to live in this county where so many are doing their part to get us to this point and share in the recovery.”

Also expected this week or next was FDA approval to administer the Pfizer vaccine to those 12 to 15. County officials will reserve Pfizer doses for younger people, Ferrer said.

“The most important preparing we need to do is have more providers capable of handling the Pfizer vaccine,” Ferrer said.

While the Pfizer vaccine can be administered the most broadly, they county often receives less doses of it compared to Moderna. And the Pfizer vaccine requires the most complexity in terms of the ultra-cold storage requirement and the process of reconstituting the vaccine to be administered, according to Ferrer.

By reaching out to pediatricians, staging mobile sites at events and utilizing more school campuses to administer doses, officials believe they can increase vaccination rates among young people, which currently hover in the 33% range.

The county’s case numbers lately continued to remain low and stable. Average daily cases, at 306, were down 27% from a month ago, and deaths — averaging four per day on April 25, were down 80% from a month back.

On Tuesday, the county confirmed 18 new deaths and 273 cases. Currently hospitalized were 400 people. The day’s figures brought the death toll due to COVID-19 since the pandemic began to 23,930 and confirmed cases at 1,234,202.

Among cities with independent health departments: Long Beach reported 38 more cases, for a total of 52,992; the city’s death toll remained at 931. Pasadena reported two new cases, for a total of 11, 241; its death toll remained at 346.

Still of concern, Ferrer said, were the variants, but county labs are encountering fewer samples. Ferrer said a majority of samples tested at county labs last week did contain many of the known variants.

“While this is promising, we will need to see similar results over the next several weeks in order to feel comfortable the  the U.K. and California variants are not circulating as much as they were several weeks ago,” Ferrer said. “The reality of variants is we see more of them when there is a lot of transmission. Mutations are much less likely to occur and spread if we have little transmission person to person.”

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