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COVID-19 vaccination clinics open at Metrolink train stations in Palmdale, Lancaster

A medical worker loads a syringe with a COVID-19 vaccine.
Liesl Eibschutz, a medical student from Dartmouth University, loads a syringe with Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in Los Angeles. Metrolink will be opening two new vaccination clinics in Palmdale and Lancaster.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County’s push to inoculate hard-to-reach populations continues with two new COVID-19 vaccination clinics at public transit locations in the Antelope Valley.

The county’s Department of Public Health is partnering with Metrolink to launch clinics at the Palmdale and Lancaster Metrolink stations beginning Tuesday. Each site will have the capacity to administer up to 250 free vaccine doses a day and will operate from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

For the record:

12:15 PM, Apr. 20, 2021An earlier version of this post misspelled the last name of Metrolink spokesman Paul Gonzales as Gonzalez.

Appointments are available through RemediaCare but are not required.

For months, L.A. County has been working to address inequities plaguing its vaccine administration, launching mobile clinics and grassroots campaigns to overcome language, transportation and technology barriers that have stood between many vulnerable residents and their doses.

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“There are a lot of underrepresented communities in Los Angeles County, and it’s been hard for them to access vaccinations,” Metrolink spokesman Paul Gonzales said Tuesday. “If we can bring vaccinations to a central part of the community — that is the rail stations in Palmdale and Lancaster — then we can provide more connectivity for people who might have a hard time getting to a vaccination center.”

Among communities with at least 5,000 residents, those that saw the largest relative increases in their vaccination rates over a weeks-long stretch ending Monday were lower-income areas with predominantly non-white populations.

Lancaster and Palmdale are among the least-vaccinated areas of the county. Less than 27% of residents 16 and older in Lancaster and less than 29% in Palmdale have received at least one dose, according to biweekly county data from April 9. Those numbers are a stark contrast to places like Beverly Hills, Playa Vista and the Pacific Palisades, where more than 50% of residents have gotten at least one vaccine dose. Both Antelope Valley cities have high populations of Black and Latino residents, who have been underrepresented in vaccination efforts.

The Antelope Valley also has some of the poorest key health indicators in the county, including a higher percentage of residents with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, asthma and obesity, a county report found, many of which can increase the risk of COVID-19.

In a statement, Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris said bringing vaccines directly into the community was a critical step to protecting residents from the virus and ensuring equitable distribution. Palmdale Mayor Steven Hofbauer noted that many Antelope Valley residents rely on public transit.

“With this collaborative effort, bringing these lifesaving vaccines to the Palmdale Metrolink station makes a significant positive impact on public health,” Hofbauer said.

Public transit riders throughout the county have long requested increased access to vaccinations, particularly since many of the region’s mass vaccination sites like the Forum in Inglewood and Dodger Stadium cater to residents with cars.

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“Not everybody has a car. Not everybody has a driver’s license,” Gonzales said. “To go to a drive-up center is an impediment to some people — it’s a barrier. If we can make it convenient for them to get their vaccine without having a car, then we can get more people vaccinated.”

Metrolink Chief Executive Stephanie Wiggins said in a statement that the agency hopes to identify additional stations for vaccination clinics in the coming weeks.

Metrolink riders could already receive free COVID-19 vaccines at the Cal State Los Angeles mass vaccination site, which is accessible from the Cal State L.A. Metrolink station on the San Bernardino line, officials said. Vaccine sites within three miles of Metrolink stations are also listed online on its Vaccine Clinic Locator tool.

More than a quarter of all L.A. County residents are now fully vaccinated, according to The Times tracker, and vaccine supplies countywide are expected to increase this week. On Thursday, all California residents 16 and older became eligible for the vaccine.

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“If we can provide connectivity,” Gonzales said, “then that really assists a large part of the population in having access to something that can save their lives.”


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