Ralphs forced to postpone COVID-19 vaccine appointments after county pulls back doses

Two cars pass a long line of vehicles going the opposite direction in a parking lot.
Cars are seen backed up at a Ralphs grocery store in Woodland Hills.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Some L.A. County residents who were scheduled to receive their first COVID-19 vaccine shot will have to wait longer after officials pulled back some doses allocated for Ralphs pharmacies.

The L.A. County Public Health Department, acting at the request of the California Department of Public Health, has “recovered” 10,000 doses from Ralphs pharmacies that were intended for upcoming appointments, officials with the supermarket chain said.

The doses will be used instead to support the county’s “mega-PODS,” or mass vaccination sites. Residents with appointments were notified of the change via phone calls and emails Thursday.


The situation underscores the serious lack of vaccine availability as the county tries to get healthcare workers, first responders and people 65 and older inoculated. With so many people now needing their second dose, there is less vaccine available for those seeking their first dose.

Ralphs spokesman John Votava said only people seeking their first dose would be affected and that those scheduled to get their second dose would still get their shots. L.A. County health officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

“We are balancing being a part of the solution for COVID-19 vaccine distribution, while trying to be a good partner with county public health departments throughout Southern California,” Votava said.

The message from Ralphs informed people that their appointments could be delayed “for potentially four weeks or more,” depending on future delivery of doses from the county or direct from the state. People can hold their spot in line or explore other appointment opportunities, it said.

The news comes as the county scrambles to meet skyrocketing demand for doses while making plans to open new vaccination sites in overlooked areas.

For residents looking forward to receiving their vaccine, it was a substantial blow.

“They shouldn’t be confiscating doses from pharmacies,” said Joy, a West L.A. resident who asked that her last name not be used.


Joy’s mother, in her 70s, already received her first dose from Ralphs and was awaiting her follow-up appointment.

“We’re told to get the second dose from the original provider, but now it seems that’s impossible or at least very delayed,” she said.

More than 40 Ralphs pharmacy locations are listed as county vaccination sites. Votava said that only first-dose appointment holders at 37 locations received emails about the change, but that it’s possible that some people receiving the message may have scheduled more than one first appointment.

“Anyone who has received their first dose is guaranteed a second dose, and they’ll be contacted directly by our pharmacy to schedule the second dose closer to their vaccine time frame,” he said.

The lack of clarity led to confusion and anxiety for several people, particularly seniors older than 65 who are eligible for the vaccine under the first phase of the county’s rollout.

“An appointment doesn’t even guarantee it now,” L.A. resident Steve Kosareff wrote on Twitter.


Kosareff said he scheduled his first shot with Ralphs several weeks ago. After receiving the cancellation notice, he looked for openings with his healthcare provider and at Dodger Stadium to no avail.

“It appears that nothing is going to be available for weeks if not months,” he said.

According to the state’s vaccination dashboard, 735,000 vaccine doses have been administered in Los Angeles County, and 2.8 million in the state.

Melissa Hill, a spokeswoman for the supermarket chain Albertsons — which is also assisting with vaccine distribution in Los Angeles — said its pharmacies have not received a similar request from the county.

Staff writer Jessica Roy contributed to this report.