L.A. again cancels COVID-19 vaccine appointments amid weather-related delivery delays
Los Angeles has postponed more COVID-19 vaccination appointments originally scheduled for Saturday as vaccine shipments remain mired in transit amid winter weather that’s hammered much of the country.
It was not immediately clear how many appointments were affected, but the delays will occur at the large-scale vaccination sites run by the city at Hansen Dam Recreation Area, San Fernando Park, Lincoln Park, Pierce College, Crenshaw Christian Center and Dodger Stadium.
Officials already pushed back 12,500 appointments scheduled Friday because of supply disruptions. City-run mobile vaccination clinics will continue to operate as scheduled.
“Appointments that were scheduled will automatically be rescheduled with a new date/time,” Mayor Eric Garcetti wrote on Twitter. “Notifications will be sent by text, email or phone as soon as we confirm the arrival of new doses.”
Officials said Thursday afternoon that the weather delays had yet to interrupt operations at vaccine sites run by L.A. County, which include the Pomona Fairplex, the Forum in Inglewood, Cal State Northridge, the county Office of Education, Six Flags Magic Mountain, Balboa Sports Complex and El Sereno Recreation Center
California should receive 1.28 million vaccine doses next week and 1.31 million the week after. Of all those, only about 1.34 million are for initial shots.
The new postponements, which Garcetti announced Friday, mark the latest fallout from the winter weather that has battered much of the country, with days of freezing rain, ice and snow that have knocked out power, grounded flights and created hazardous travel conditions in Texas and elsewhere.
The inclement weather has tied up two L.A.-bound shipments of the Moderna vaccine, totaling some 63,000 doses, that were supposed to be available for appointments this week and next, according to city officials.
The main manufacturing facilities for the nation’s two COVID-19 vaccines — made by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech — are in Massachusetts and Michigan.
“They’re trying to scrape the runways and everything,” Garcetti said Thursday night. “I really want to give a shout-out to those workers who are out there in the bitter cold, trying to make sure vaccines get throughout this country, including here to Los Angeles.”
About 12,500 people will have their appointments delayed — and those affected should be notified by text, email or phone, according to a city statement.
California is among a number of states that have been affected by weather-related delays, according to a representative from the state Department of Public Health.
The state was anticipating stepped-up vaccine deliveries in the coming weeks, but that was before the winter storms struck, and the distribution still would have brought far less than what is needed to quickly work through the queue of people eligible to receive shots.
California — along with the rest of the country — has been contending with a scarcity of vaccines, with officials saying they have the capacity, but not the supply, to inoculate significantly more people.
A consistent challenge is that both currently available COVID-19 vaccines require two doses, administered three or four weeks apart.
Lately, the need to provide second shots has spurred officials throughout the state to greatly limit access to first doses.
Of the roughly 2.6 million doses California was slated to receive in its next two shipments, only about 1.34 million were expected to be available for first doses, according to figures presented during Wednesday’s meeting of the state vaccine advisory committee.
It’s unclear how the weather delays will affect those figures.
But by Thursday evening, some accounts had already emerged of individuals fearing that supply may run out earlier than expected. At Dodger Stadium, traffic came to a standstill for hours as staff told residents with appointments that they were awaiting more vaccines, without further details.
What happens if your appointment was postponed?
People who have had their appointments delayed should be notified by text, email or phone, according to a city statement.
“Once the city confirms the arrival of a new shipment of doses in the days ahead, all patients who missed their appointment will be prioritized and receive a notification with details for their new automatically rescheduled appointment,” the statement said.
Garcetti said Thursday that the appointments that were canceled for people set to receive their first vaccine dose Friday have “likely already been rescheduled.”
People whose second-dose appointments were canceled will “still get it within the time period recommended” by federal health officials, he said. He said the new appointment information will arrive by text message, email or phone call.
Some people apparently didn’t get the message Friday. A reporter with KTLA-TV (Channel 5) posted video showing a line of cars at the Dodger Stadium vaccination site.
What about Disneyland and Orange County?
Storm-related delays also prompted the closure of Orange County’s Disneyland vaccination center Thursday.
The Disneyland site began turning away people with appointments when a shipment of the Moderna vaccine did arrive on time, according to a county news release.
The center will stay closed until at least Monday, when additional supplies are expected.
The opening of a new vaccination site at the Anaheim Convention Center, scheduled for Wednesday, may be delayed if supplies are not restocked in time, the news release said.
Two other Orange County vaccination sites, at Soka University and Santa Ana College, primarily administer the Pfizer vaccine.
The Soka site will continue to provide second doses, while Santa Ana will close Saturday, according to the county. The Santa Ana site’s reopening date depends on when more Pfizer vaccines arrive.
Some essential workers, teacher eligible for vaccine in L.A. County beginning March 1
What do the next few weeks look like?
Midweek forecasts indicated that California should receive 1.28 million vaccine doses next week and 1.31 million the week after. Both of those figures are up from the state’s last allotment, which was about 1.08 million.
“Dedicated allocation seems to be increasing, so keep your fingers crossed that it continues to go in that direction,” said Dr. Tomás Aragón, California’s public health officer and director of the state Department of Public Health.
Even without the weather delays, shipments of that size aren’t large enough to quickly handle all the Californians who are eligible to receive their shots now, let alone the millions more who can get in line starting next month.
It’s also unclear how those doses will be divvied up throughout the state. Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Wednesday that she did not have an estimated allocation for the next two to three weeks.
“We still have a fair amount of variability in what we get from week to week,” she said.
Ferrer said Wednesday that she believed March could be another difficult month for vaccine allocation but that circumstances would improve in April as additional doses became available.
Whenever the expected influx occurs, though, state and local health officials say they’ll be ready for it.
“Our ability to vaccinate residents and workers just depends at this point on the availability of us having enough vaccine, because we have many different sites that can meet the varied needs of our population,” Ferrer said.
Last week, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert said the U.S. could see open vaccine distribution by April. On Tuesday, he pushed that timeline back.
Where do we stand on vaccine eligibility?
For the most part, hospital workers and people 65 and older are getting the bulk of the vaccines. But some workers, teachers and others are joining the line.
Certain essential workers in L.A. County will become eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations starting March 1, but will probably face competition as supplies are expected to remain limited.
The next pool of eligible Angelenos includes educators, child-care workers, food and agriculture workers, grocery store employees, law enforcement personnel and other emergency responders.
More than 1.3 million people fall into those groups. About 2.2 million people in L.A. County who work in healthcare, live in long-term care facilities or are 65 and older are already eligible to be vaccinated.
And the pool of those eligible to be vaccinated is set to widen even further next month. Starting March 15, people ages 16 to 64 who are disabled or at high risk for morbidity and mortality from COVID-19 will be able to receive vaccinations in California.
But officials warn that actually getting a shot will be challenging until more supplies are available.
Times staff writer Laura J. Nelson contributed to this report.
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