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Some big COVID-19 vaccination sites are shutting down as demand flags and focus shifts

Vehicles line up at the Forum in Inglewood for vaccines
Vehicles line up at the Forum in Inglewood for vaccinations on Jan. 19. Orange County is closing its mass vaccination sites, though four sites in L.A. County will remain open for the foreseeable future.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

With demand for COVID-19 vaccines waning, California officials are closing some mass vaccination sites while doubling down on efforts to get the reluctant inoculated.

Orange County announced it will close its four biggest vaccination centers in early June, and the city of Los Angeles will shut down the vaccine site at Dodger Stadium, one of the biggest in the country, at the end of May.

Los Angeles County has four other mass vaccination sites, and they will remain open for the foreseeable future. Officials said they may want to continue using them to vaccinate youths ages 12 to 15 if the Pfizer vaccine is authorized for that group as early as next week.

L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said some strategies are being planned to make the vaccine easier to access. Most people who really wanted the vaccine have already received it, she said.

“What’s left are people who may not have either the time or the energy or the wherewithal to carve that time out of their schedules and make it to one of our vaccination sites.”

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“We do need to work harder to ensure that there’s good information and easy access to vaccinations for our younger people,” L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said.

Convincing skeptics

Ferrer said more efforts are being made to meet people where they are in order to get them vaccinated, including offering shots at shopping centers, parks, sporting events and other venues. With 735 vaccination sites in L.A. County open this week, “we’ve got the most extensive network of any county in the entire country here in L.A.,” Ferrer said.

Additional efforts are also going to answering residents’ questions. While addressing some rumors Tuesday, Ferrer said that, no, the vaccines do not affect fertility and do not cause a pregnant woman’s immune system to attack the placenta “This rumor is absolutely false,” Ferrer said. “The vaccine does not and cannot cause your body to attack the placenta.”

Studies have shown no increased rates of miscarriage or any other problems with vaccinated expectant mothers or with pregnancies, Ferrer said.

She also said the vaccine cannot infect someone with COVID-19. “The vaccines contain no live, no weakened and no dead virus. And they cannot give you COVID,” Ferrer said.

The vaccines, rather, “teach” the body’s immune system how to attack the coronavirus. Some people who get vaccinated do experience relatively mild side effects that can feel like the flu, including fever, chills, headache and body aches, but they typically go away after one or two days.

“The side effects are not signs of infection,” Ferrer said. “They are actually signs that your immune system has kicked into gear and it’s working hard to make what it needs to protect you in case of a future exposure to the virus.”

The side effects from the vaccine are not contagious, she added.

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It’s not yet known whether COVID-19 vaccines can affect your period, but researchers are starting to study the issue.

Some sites are closing

In addition to the Dodger Stadium and Orange County closings, officials elsewhere in California are preparing to shut down a number of mass vaccination sites as bookings for appointments continue to drop dramatically and authorities look to shift doses to mobile or neighborhood clinics, pharmacies and doctor’s offices.

In Orange County, the demand for first doses has dropped by over 75% since the end of April officials said in announcing that mass vaccination sites at the Anaheim Convention Center, OC Fair & Event Center, Soka University and Santa Ana College will close June 6. The last first-dose Moderna appointments will be offered Saturday, and the last first-dose Pfizer appointments will be offered May 15.

That announcement came a day after officials decided to close the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum mass vaccination site on May 23. Requests for first doses have dropped from 4,000 a day to 400, according to the Alameda County Public Health Agency. Focus on vaccine distribution will shift to smaller clinics.

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Concern over falling vaccinations

Experts have long expected that demand for vaccinations would slow as people who are most willing get the shots. Officials say that getting the remainder of the nation vaccinated will be harder, and focus needs to be on lower-income populations and vulnerable people who are unable to drive long distances or have limited time to get a shot.

“We are going to make it as easy as possible for every American to get a vaccine,” Andy Slavitt, a senior Biden administration advisor on the pandemic, told reporters recently. He said Americans can text their ZIP code to 438829 and receive a reply with the three locations nearest to them with vaccines in stock. Spanish speakers can text their ZIP code to 822862. Slavitt said Uber and Lyft are offering free or discounted rides for vaccine recipients.

The recent dropoff in interest in getting vaccines has worried public health officials. In L.A. County, the average number of vaccine doses administered daily fell to about 67,000 last week, down 23% from the previous week’s daily average of 87,000.

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Similar declines were seen elsewhere. Santa Clara County administered an average of 20,000 doses a day last week, down from the previous week’s 30,000 a day. San Francisco‘s average fell to 7,000 doses a day last week, down from 10,000 the previous week.


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