COVID-19 vaccine tiers may disappear as supply chain ramps up, Garcetti says

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Hayley Smith
·3 min read
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LA Mayor Eric Garcetti greets members of the LA City CORE mobile team.
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, right, greets a man at a mobile COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Chinatown for senior citizens on Wednesday. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

After setbacks and shipment delays tied to winter weather, the supply of COVID-19 vaccines in Los Angeles is ramping up again, officials said.

Tuesday was the second-busiest day at city-run vaccination sites, Mayor Eric Garcetti said during a news briefing Wednesday, with 17,572 doses administered. And while some scarcity remains, the numbers are expected to improve in the days and weeks to come.

“While we still don't have clarity on the supply chain, in the next week or two, simple math indicates we should only see more and more supply in the weeks ahead,” Garcetti said. “So get ready.”

The city is still primarily providing second-dose appointments but hopes to be able to “accelerate once again first-dose appointments” starting next week, the mayor said, when vaccine eligibility will expand to include workers in education and childcare, food and agriculture, emergency services and law enforcement, beginning Monday.

“I look forward to the day, and I think it’s coming sooner than we can imagine — in a month, month and a half, maybe two months max — where I think all of these tiers basically go away,” Garcetti said, “because we’re going to have so much vaccine supply in this country.”

As of Tuesday, the city had administered more than 367,200 doses, 90% of its supply. Mobile vaccination teams administered more than 5,300 doses, 96% of which went to people of color, Garcetti said.

Starting next week, the city will also offer Saturday hours at mobile vaccination clinics to accommodate essential workers who work Monday through Friday.

Still, other inequities continue to plague the region’s rollout, with reports emerging of people misusing vaccine access codes intended for residents of underserved Black and Latino areas.

The mayor acknowledged there aren’t specific consequences for line-jumpers, but he said “it isn’t the right thing to do.”

“I wouldn’t punish somebody who simply is trying to do what everybody’s doing — waiting for something that seems credible, and [wanting] to get a vaccine,” he said, noting that the city doesn't have jurisdiction over federal or state sites. “I would just tweak it, close it up, change the system if necessary, and that’s what we’ve done with the city sites.”

Countywide, COVID-19 numbers have continued to drop even as the death toll climbs. Since last week, coronavirus infections have dropped 19%, and hospitalizations 28%, the mayor said. Intensive care units are at their lowest numbers since the beginning of December.

But on Wednesday, the county reported a backlog of more than 800 deaths over the autumn-and-winter surge, which pushed the state beyond the grim milestone of 50,000 COVID-19 deaths. Fears of new variants continue to grow as well.

"The virus is still spreading each day, and it's still at dangerous levels," Garcetti said, adding that vaccines, face coverings and social distancing can help save lives.

"Fortunately, vaccine production is ramping up significantly," he said. "I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: Give us the supply, and we will vaccinate everyone by July."

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.