January 19, 2021
When can Angelenos expect to get their COVID-19 vaccine? It’s a simple question with a not-so-simple answer. Let us do our best to explain.
We always knew there would be many hurdles to distributing this vaccine. As a logistical undertaking, it’s unprecedented. And despite strong evidence that it is safe and effective, nearly half the country is skeptical about taking it.
A legacy of racism in medical services, and deliberate misinformation from the Trump administration, has made many people wary. The challenge of providing effective communication and outreach around the vaccine is just as important as storing it at subfreezing temperatures.
Making matters more complicated, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines expire quickly once removed from refrigeration. And everyone must return within 3 or 4 weeks for a second dose in order for them to be fully effective.
LA has been administering the vaccine since mid-Dec, but like most places it’s been limiting access to frontline healthcare workers that deal directly with infected or high-risk patients. This kind of prioritization makes sense, but it has also led to some inefficiencies.
For instance, many of LA’s skilled nursing facilities reported having extra doses. One solution would have been to share with assisted living facilities, where residents are often nearly as sick -- but they hadn’t yet been authorized to get the vaccine.
Another hurdle has been a surprisingly high rate of frontline healthcare workers opting out. Between 20-40% of eligible healthcare workers in LA have declined the vaccine, sending even more places scrambling to distribute their unused doses.
On Monday, LA County took steps to pick up the pace of vaccinations by expanding eligibility to include *all healthcare workers.* The city also announced that the Dodger Stadium testing site would be repurposed to start delivering vaccines 7 days a week.
These moves will hopefully help LA County meet its goal of vaccinating 500,000 more healthcare workers by the end of January. But there’s one last problem: we currently don’t have enough doses to do so.
These bigger supply chain issues are due to failures at the federal level. After the Trump administration promised to release more doses from a strategic vaccine reserve, it was revealed on Friday that the reserve was in fact empty.
There’s been a lot of confusion in Califronia as well. Governor Newsom announced Wednesday that those over 65 were now eligible for the vaccine. Older Angelenos raced to grab slots -- until the County indicated it did not have enough vaccines to expand eligibility.
As it stands, if you’re a healthcare worker in LA, you can sign up today for an appointment. All healthcare workers -- from acupuncturists to staff at surgery centers -- are eligible. There are nearly 100 distribution sites across the county.
For everyone else, visit the Carbon Health website, enter your birthday, line of work, and whether you have COVID-related health risks. You’ll be allowed to schedule an appointment if you’re eligible, and you’ll be added to a waitlist if you’re not.
No one will have to pay for a vaccine. It is covered by private and public insurance companies. And those without health insurance can get the vaccine at no cost.
The best breakdown of each planned distribution phase -- and who falls under each one -- can be found here. And if you’re more of a visual learner, this chart is super helpful as well:
See the original Twitter thread here.