It’s time to get your COVID shot, CDC director says. Like, now

A smiling woman rolls up her sleeve to get a shot administered by a man wearing glasses.
CDC Director Dr. Mandy Cohen gets an updated COVID vaccination at Stovall Terrace Apartments, a senior community in Los Angeles, on Wednesday from Dr. Ken Thai, CEO of 986 Pharmacy.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)
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A month after officially recommending that everyone 6 months and older get an updated COVID-19 vaccination, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Mandy Cohen rolled up her sleeve Wednesday in Los Angeles for the latest shot.

At a mobile clinic operated at Stovall Terrace Apartments, where many low-income seniors reside, Cohen and Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer touted the importance of the updated vaccine, which is formulated to target an Omicron subvariant that was dominant earlier this year: XBB.1.5.

“October is the right time to get vaccinated,” Cohen said. “As we get into late fall and winter ... what we expect is to see more COVID circulation in November, December and January.”


And the new CDC director, who took over in June, didn’t just talk the talk: She told residents she was excited “to make sure that I’m protected.”

“I wouldn’t recommend something for the American people that I wouldn’t do for myself and my family,” Cohen said, adding that her husband, her 9- and 11-year-old children and her parents, both of whom are over 65, are all getting their updated shots too.

CDC Director Mandy Cohen speaks with a person in a wheelchair
CDC Director Mandy Cohen, left, speaks with residents at Stovall Terrace Apartments during a COVID-19 and flu vaccine clinic.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Resident Joyce Carol Moore, 79, said she was glad the vaccine clinic came to her because she wasn’t sure her doctor’s office was going to have enough shots.

“It’s easier for me,” she said while wearing a face mask.

Lusero Martinez and Rosa DeCamp, social workers for HDSI Management Inc., a Los Angeles-based property management firm, said having vaccine resources available to Stovall Terrace residents was crucial in getting the community up to date on shots.

Although many of the residents are able-bodied and can get to a pharmacy, the mobile clinic helped alleviate the hesitancy some have about the vaccines, Martinez said.


“Having something here, they’re more apt to say, ‘Yes, I want to do it.’ And because we bring [the resources to them], they trust it too,” DeCamp said.

A man sitting in a chair is handed a clipboard by another man standing next to him.
Residents at Stovall Terrace Apartments, a low-income senior community in Los Angeles, receive COVID-19 and flu vaccines Wednesday.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Distribution of the updated COVID-19 vaccination has been slow, and some medical facilities are experiencing shortages. But officials say the vaccine is now available at all eight of L.A. County’s public health centers.

Cohen said one reason for the shortages is because vaccine distribution changed this year. During the pandemic emergency, which ended in May, vaccines were purchased and distributed by the federal government and were free. Now vaccines are being distributed by the private sector.

Depending on a person’s healthcare plan, COVID-19 vaccines may need to be administered by an in-network provider to avoid out-of-pocket fees. Cohen said “there is ongoing work between the state and folks to make sure everyone can get reimbursed for the work that they’re doing at health centers.”

For those who are uninsured or underinsured, the CDC head said the federal Bridge Access Program provides no-cost shots.


Los Angeles County is seeing its COVID-19 levels recede, a welcome reprieve before an expected climb in coronavirus transmission this fall and winter, officials say.

Oct. 10, 2023

Some parents have been frustrated trying to find COVID-19 vaccines for young children, Ferrer said, but the county does have pediatric doses on hand.

Cohen said doctors are trying to assess how many parents “even want to get their kids vaccines so they know how much to order.” She suggested calling pediatricians, health centers or public health departments to check whether vaccines are available for children.

Mandy Cohen and Barbara Ferrer exchange commemorative tokens.
CDC Director Mandy Cohen, left, and Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, exchange commemorative tokens at a vaccination event.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Ferrer emphasized the importance of residents getting vaccinated. Once the health department had an adequate supply of vaccines, it was time to take the shots to the public, she said, and “not always rely on people being able to get to vaccination sites.”

That’s where the mobile teams initiative comes in.

Kevin Mancilla, director of operations for 986 Pharmacy, which partnered in Wednesday’s vaccine clinic, said the pharmacy coordinates with the Department of Public Health and other nonprofits and community-based organizations to provide services where outbreaks are occurring, vaccines are needed and communities are underserved.

The pharmacy conducts mobile clinics six days a week.

Ferrer said the health department conducts about 200 mobile visits a week and more than 60% target places where older residents live or go for senior programming.


“We all know the data is really conclusive that the hardest-hit groups in L.A. County are older people right now, and they’re going to all need updated protection that this new vaccine offers,” Ferrer said.