A plan to use L.A. schools as COVID vaccine centers gains momentum

A closeup of a gloved hand holding a syringe.
A UCLA nurse prepares a syringe of the COVID-19 vaccine at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Support is growing for a plan to use neighborhood schools to distribute the coronavirus vaccine.

Los Angeles County supervisors on Tuesday endorsed the use of schools as vaccine centers, as the campuses are trusted neighborhood hubs in communities that are being hit hard by infections, including Pacoima, San Fernando, South Los Angeles and the Eastside.

The L.A. Unified School District says it has 12 school-based health clinics that are staffed with nurses who are already trained to give vaccinations and are ready to provide coronavirus vaccines.

“They do have a very well-thought-out plan for opening up an additional 48 sites [so] when we have enough vaccine and when teachers and staff are eligible to get vaccinated, they’ll be ready to go and help with vaccinating folks at their sites,” said Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
She added that it was likely that, at some point, other community members also could be vaccinated at the sites.

This week, vaccines are being administered at 189 sites, including clinics, hospitals and pharmacies, in L.A. County, which is only about half of the 350 healthcare providers that have registered with the county to serve as vaccination sites.


“We just don’t have enough vaccine to distribute to all of those sites right now,” Ferrer said, “so supply is our biggest problem at the moment.”

Earlier this month, Los Angeles schools Supt. Austin Beutner pressed for using schools as COVID-19 vaccination centers, saying his 900 campuses are “ready to go” — a move that could speed up the reopening of in-person classes for students.

“Schools which are part of Los Angeles Unified are uniquely situated — and uniquely qualified — to help in the vaccination effort,” Beutner wrote in a letter to Ferrer and Dr. Mark Ghaly, who heads the state’s Health and Human Services Agency.