SoCal Residents: Here's How To Figure Out When And Where You Can Get The Vaccine
In case you missed it, the state of California is now allowing those 65 and older to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
In Los Angeles County, health officials at first said they weren't ready to immunize people in that age group until February at the earliest...becuase there were simply not enough vacinne doses. That changed a week later.
Caveat: there are still not enough vaccine doses.
Meanwhile, Long Beach, as well as Orange, San Bernardino, and Riverside counties are moving forward with the 65+ age group — but not without hurdles.
Of course, none of this is simple. It never is. We're dealing with many layers of bureaucracy in addition to under-resourced, burnt-out public health departments — public agencies that are also tasked with managing the winter case surge.
To make matters more confusing, in California, public health is largely a county-level operation. Each county has its own vaccine distrubution plan, guided by the state (with relatively little help from the federal government). And some counties, like L.A., also include cities with their own publc health departments that can decide to veer from the plan, like Long Beach and Pasadena.
Health officials like L.A.County's Barbara Ferrer, say they hope things will speed up, now that Biden is in office. The Biden administration says they are aiming to administer 100 million vaccine shots in the President's first 100 days. Next month, FEMA will set up 100 community vaccination centers as part of that effort - but we aren't yet sure how and when these changes will reach California.
To get more clarity on all this, we reached out to each city and county for details.
NOTE: This is an evolving story and will be updated as we get more information.
LOS ANGELES COUNTY
Updated Jan. 22 at 6 p.m.
L.A. County first said it wouldn't immunize people in the 65+ age group until February at the earliest. That changed when county Board of Supervisors chair Hilda Solis signed an executive order to expand the pool of eligible vaccine candidates to that age group late on Monday, Jan. 18.
Starting Tuesday Jan. 19, L.A. County residents 65 and older can book an appointment, with slots open as early as the following day.
County public health director Barbara Ferrer said the vaccine supply is still limited, so appointment slots will only open a few days in advance:
"It will require patience, because we haven't received yet all of the doses that we'll need to vaccinate the priority groups. And we, too, are looking forward to a new administration and more transparency on how many doses will be available in the future."
Almost immediately after the portal launched, however, it crashed from so many people trying to sign up.
"Our COVID-19 vaccination hotline and website are fielding thousands of calls and users, and experiencing technical difficulties. We appreciate your patience as we work to fix these technical issues," the department tweeted.
Those issues are still being resolved.
On Jan 15., L.A. county converted Dodger Stadium from a mass testing site into a their lagest mass vaccination location. The site is operating Mondays through Saturdays from 8 am to 8 pm.
Here's how it works:
Patients will be directed to one of three areas within the parking lot, each with refrigeration units, clinicians and support staff. Cars will pull through in groups of 10, and health workers will use carts to move between vehicles, conducting pre-screening interviews and then administering the vaccine through car windows. People will then wait in their cars for 15 minutes in case they have an allergic reaction to the vaccine.
Patients will get a card bearing the date they were vaccinated and the brand name of the vaccine they were given. They'll need to make follow-up appointments to get the second dose a few weeks later, but it doesn't need to be at the same site.
You can read more about the Dodger Stadium site here.
Another five mass vaccination sites opened Tuesday, Jan. 19, across L.A. County.
The locations are:
- The Forum in Inglewood
- The Pomona Fairplex
- Cal State Northridge
- The L.A. County Office of Education in Downey
- Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia
County officials say staff will be able to vaccinate 4,000 people a day at each location (and up to 12,000 a day at Dodger Stadium). There are also more than 75 smaller vaccination locations across the county.
Eligible healthcare workers can make an appointment here. To qualify for the vaccine, they must have one of the following sets of verification documents:
- a health care worker badge with a photo
- a professional license and a photo ID
- a signed letter from an employer and a photo ID
- a payment stub from a health care provider with a name and a photo ID
Even with all of thse vaccination sites in place, health officials estimate that at this rate, healthy adults won't receive their vaccinations until "well into" 2022. If the county doubled their pace now, adults would be eligilbe to receive vaccines in summer 2021.
L.A. County has 10 million residents, roughly the same population as the entire state of Georgia.
Some health care experts say public health officials need to think bigger.
"We need probably 10 times or maybe 20 times Dodger Stadium," said Karin Michels, chair of epidemiology at UCLA. "Convention centers need to be transformed into vaccine sites. We need to be much more ambitious."
In the meantime, however, Dr. Paul Simon from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said the county will be using several different channels to make sure citizens are aware when their turn comes:
"Of course, we'll be working with the media to get the word out. But in addition, [we'll be] working with health care providers, who then will contact their patients who are in that age group. We'll work with various organizations like the AARP, and others. And we have a newsletter that anyone can sign up for on our website. So we'll use all of those channels to try to get the word out."
Use the same website (VaccinateLACounty.com) to sign up for notifications. Just enter your email address in the box at the top of the screen, and you should start getting the newsletter on which groups are currently eligible to receive the vaccine.
Updated Jan. 22 at 6 p.m.
Long Beach residents 65 and older weren given the green light to get the COVID-19 vaccine as early as Saturday, Jan. 16.
The coastal city is way ahead of L.A. County in terms of distribution. After opening eligibility to seniors, Long Beach started vaccinating grocery store workers, restaurant workers and other essential workers. On January 25, appointments will open for staff at Long Beach Unified School District and Long Beach City College.
As of Friday, Jan 22, the city is already half way through second doses for all their health care workers. Mayor Garcia says the city health department factors in anticipated doses each week, and makes sure to set some aside so there's enough for those second shots.
City officials say appointments can be made here or by calling 562-570-INFO.
Everyone with an appointment will need to bring a pay stub or employee ID to prove they're eligible.
"If they do not have the proof that we are asking for, then we do ask that they move along," Kelly Colopy, the city's Director of Health and Human Services, told our newsroom, "and so we have turned away quite a few people who are coming from outside of the city, or who are in tiers that are not yet being served."
The city is also implementing a system to prevent doses from going to waste — so if someone doesn't show up, people further down the waiting list will be contacted to get the shot instead.
Mayor Garcia said of his city's efforts:
"I've been talking to all of the different mayors across the state, I talked to the governor's office, been communicating with the governor as well, directly. And right now, there is definitely a sense that we are getting something right in the city."
Updated Jan. 22 at 6 p.m.
Seniors in Pasadena (65+ residents) are currently eligible for vaccines, but capacity is extremely limited. Health officials ask that you not show up to a test site without an appointment. Vaccination sites do not accept walk-ups.
For more information on vaccine administration and planning, visit cityofpasadena.net/public-health/covid-19-vaccine or call (626) 744-6000. Healthcare providers who are eligible and able to do so are encouraged to sign up to receive and administer the vaccine at ca.covidreadi.com.
The city is still in the process of vaccinating health workers, nursing home residents/workers, and police/fire department members. (Pasadena is part of of L.A. County, but the city has their own public health department, meaning they have to handle vaccine distribution separately.)
The recently asked Gov. Gavin Newsom for help to speed up their coronavirus vaccination process. Mayor Victor Gordo said at the current rate, it will take the city two years to vaccinate all its residents. The mayor wrote a letter to Newsom on Jan. 19 asking for assistance.
"The systemic challenges presented by the current vaccine distribution create an obstacle the city alone cannot overcome," the letter says.
Gordo asked specifically for the governor's help in setting up a state-supported mega vaccination site, like the ones at places like Dodger Stadium and Six Flags Magic Mountain in L.A. County. He suggested the Rose Bowl as an ideal location, given its size and "familiarity."
The letter specifies that Pasadena has one mega site currently, at Victory Park, capable of delivering 100 doses per hour thanks to help from public health staff, other city departments, contracted services and volunteers. That site is only open two days a week, however, and has so far delivered 2,300 doses to recipients in Phase 1A. The city plans to open the site four days a week on Feb. 1, which would increase distribution to 2,800 doses per week.
Once the city starts administering second doses, though, they'll have even less capacity to distribute first ones, the mayor writes. He says that's simply not enough.
You can find more info about Pasadena's vaccine rollout, including tiers and phases here.
Updated Jan. 22 at 6 p.m.
Riverside County began administering the COVID-19 vaccine to residents 65 and older Thursday, Jan. 14, in addition to frontline, essential workers in education, law enforcement and agriculture.
Brooke Federico, a public information officer for Riverside County, says residents there will need to prove they're eligible for the vaccine with "proof of employment through a pay stub, a work ID or a work badge, or a proof of employment letter from your employer" if you're getting the vaccine because of your job.
If you're 65 and older, you'll need an ID to validate your age and show that you live in Riverside County.
Appointments are required. You can make them on the county health website, ruhealth.org. The website also has a list of pharmacies and urgent care centers that are providing the vaccine.
Note, however, that the portal will soon change; The website crashed on the first day of sign ups. The county says they're working on an updated web link, which will connect users to the state's vacine registration portal.
Health officials say residents should also check with their healthcare provider, if they have one, before signing up for the county vacination sites.
The county is also working to add a notification feature to its website, to alert people when more appointments open up.
Orange County decided to adopt the state's suggestion to expand vaccine distribution to the 65+ age group on Wednesday, Jan 13. As soon as officials made the announcement, more than 10,000 people scheduled appointments in less than two hours.
All that traffic overloaded the Othena app and website, which handles the appointments.
The chair of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, Andrew Do, acknowledged the issues and asked people to be patient:
"We are working on the technical side to increase the bandwidth in order to get people in to at least let them know that we have them in the system. And then when appropriate, we can then send out notices for the people that qualify."
He added that people who are eligible to get vaccinated should contact their healthcare provider first to see how they can get vaccinated through their health network, instead of through a publicly-run site.
Currently, if you visit the county's Othena.com site, you have to answer "yes" or "no" to "Do you live or work in Orange County?" and "Are you 65 or older?".
If you click yes to both, you get a message saying "You are eligible to be vaccinated" and then you register with your name, DOB, race/ethnicity, employer, email and phone number. Then you get this message:
We've reached out to Orange County's health department for more information and have not yet heard back.
SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY
Officals announced Thursday, Jan. 14, that all San Bernardino County residents ages 65 and over are now eligible to receive the vaccine.
"We ask the community for patience as we continue to receive doses from the state of California to serve our senior population and as we continue to vaccinate health care workers," Board of Supervisors Chairman Curt Hagman said in a statement.
At the same time, county officials say vaccine doses are scarce right now.
"The county will make every effort to lobby the State for the doses needed to quickly provide vaccinations for every senior in San Bernardino County who wants and needs protection," a spokesperson said.
For now, they are taking appointments.
County residents 65 and over can make appointments through sbcovid19.com/vaccine.
Seniors can also sign up for email and text notifications to receive alerts about vaccination opportunities and other vaccination news through the "65+ Vaccine Notification Sign Up" link at sbcovid19.com/vaccine.Those who need assistance with appointments or signing up for notifications can call the COVID-19 hotline from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at (909) 387-3911.
Health officials in Ventura County hope to start vaccinating people 65 and older within the next two to three weeks.
Right now, the county is still only administering vaccines to people in Phase 1A, which includes health care workers and residents and staff at long-term care facilities.
Barry Zimmerman, who is the chief deputy director of the county's health care agency, says, like L.A., the county does not have enough doses from the state to move on to the next phase of distribution.
"Our capacity to roll out and to vaccinate individuals is based on our ability to receive vaccines from the state," he said. "At this time we're averaging under 10,000 doses a week."
Ventura County has requested more doses, but has not yet received them.
Monica Bushman, Megan Ngyugen, Fiona Ng, Jackier Fortier and Gina Pollack contributed to this story.