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Cal State L.A. now giving vaccines by appointment only after surge in demand

Two lines of vehicles in between orange traffic cones and white tents
Drivers line up for COVID-19 vaccines at Cal State L.A.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The Cal State L.A. mass vaccination site will now turn away adults who don’t have a COVID-19 vaccine appointment, state officials said Thursday evening.

The move comes a day after state officials briefly allowed any adult to line up for a COVID-19 vaccine without an appointment, including adults who aren’t otherwise eligible for the shot under state criteria. In recent days, thousands of vaccine appointment slots had gone unbooked, leaving excess capacity.

But that all changed by Thursday morning, when many people showed up to the Eastside campus seeking the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Traffic congestion was so bad that a freeway offramp was shut down.

The Cal State L.A. mass vaccination site typically has the capacity to inject roughly 7,000 shots a day, with the ability to boost that number on weekends; before Thursday, demand at the site had slowed to the point where only about 5,000 shots were given a day. But with the surge in interest Thursday, officials estimate roughly 10,000 doses will have been injected by the end of the day.

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“The enthusiasm was good,” said Brian Ferguson, spokesman for the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, which is running the site with the Federal Emergency Management Agency through Sunday evening; management of the site will be turned over to the city of Los Angeles on Monday morning.

The surge in interest also means that many more appointments have been booked through Friday and the weekend, so the chances of walking up to the site and securing a vaccination without an appointment are now exceedingly slim, if not almost impossible.

For the rest of Friday and through the weekend, “the only way to assure yourself of a vaccine is to make an appointment ahead of time,” Ferguson said. Staffers at the site are now telling people that they must have an appointment to get a vaccine.

As of Thursday at 6 p.m., a number of appointments were available for Friday for eligible people — those who are 50 or older; have underlying medical conditions; or work certain essential jobs, such as healthcare, education, child care, emergency services, and food and agriculture. People do not have to live in L.A. County to get the vaccine at Cal State L.A.

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“We anticipate it’ll continue to be busy for the rest of the week and any gaps or deficiencies that existed in demand prior to this have certainly been resolved,” Ferguson said.

Excess supplies and unused appointments have led officials in some parts of the state to make doses available to all adults, even those not eligible under current rules.

People can sign up for an appointment at the myturn.ca.gov website or by calling (833) 422-4255.

Starting April 15, the state will allow any Californian 16 or older to get the vaccine.

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Other counties have decided to move faster than the state’s guidance in allowing people to get the vaccine.

In Southern California, Kern, Riverside and San Bernardino counties have made anyone 16 and older eligible to get the shot.

In Los Angeles County, the city of Long Beach — which has its own public health department independent of the county’s — on Thursday began to inoculate residents 16 and older. Walk-up appointments will be open for residents from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Saturday, at the Long Beach Convention Center, according to city officials. An estimated 500 appointments will be available daily, officials added.

Orange County is allowing anyone 16 and over who live in four hard-hit ZIP codes — 92701 and 92703 in Santa Ana; 92805 in Anaheim and 92844 in Garden Grove — to be vaccinated.

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In the Bay Area, Alameda County is allowing anyone 16 and over living in a dozen hard-hit ZIP codes to be vaccinated, which include neighborhoods in Oakland, Hayward, San Leandro and unincorporated San Lorenzo.

Elsewhere in California, a number of counties in the north — such as Contra Costa, Butte, Shasta and Nevada — are among those that have opened up vaccines to those 16 and over; most require recipients to either live or work in those counties. Yuba and Sutter counties have made COVID-19 shots available to anyone 18 and older who live or work there.

The UC Davis Health system in the Sacramento area is also vaccinating people 16 and over. Fresno County said it will do the same starting Friday.

All COVID-19 vaccines are free regardless of immigration or health insurance status.


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