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LA’s COVID Emergency Might Be Over, But Many Remain Unvaccinated

A bar graph showing children are the least vaccinated in L.A. County.
Children are the least vaccinated in L.A. County.
L.A. County Deptartment of Public Health)
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The bivalent COVID-19 vaccine is still highly effective, but not enough Angelenos have received one.

Children remain the least vaccinated age group in Los Angeles County, with less than 15% of eligible children 5-17 receiving the shot. The most vaccinated age group is also the most vulnerable — just 45% of people 65 and older have received the shot.

“This week we had 700 mobile teams and the priority is to make sure those mobile teams are in places where older people have easy access,” said Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer at a press conference Thursday. “We will go to anybody's home to vaccinate them. It's a 100% free. You just have to call us and we'll schedule a time.”

Call public health center at 1-833-540-0473 to get vaccinated.
Courtesy of the L.A. County Department of Public Health)
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In total, Ferrer said 1.7 million people in L.A. County have gotten the free shot. Local data show clear differences between the hospitalization and death rates of people with COVID who had received the bivalent shot and those who hadn’t.

“Hospitalization rates for the 90 day period that ended April 3, were nearly five times higher for people 65 and older who were unvaccinated, compared to people who were vaccinated without the bivalent booster,” Ferrer said.

Overall, cases continue to gradually decline. Ferrer said the county is averaging 303 cases per day, compared to 355 the week prior. Both are an undercount, because at-home testing is not encapsulated. Hospital admissions have plateaued at 51 admissions per day.

“While relieved that the number of average hospital admissions has been under 60 for the past month, a year ago, average hospital admissions were about half of what they are now. While many different factors play into this, I want to remind people that therapeutics and the bivalent booster are two tools to help reduce severe illness and are widely available in L.A. County,” Ferrer said.

Public health reported 44 deaths this week from COVID.

“Compared to other points in the pandemic, we are seeing much lower numbers of deaths. However, these deaths are not insignificant and COVID continues to be one of the leading causes of death in L.A. County and across the country,” Ferrer said.

A slide detailing updated COVID vaccine guidance by age group.
A slide detailing updated COVID vaccine guidance by age group.
Courtesy of the L.A. County Department of Public Health)

Simplified COVID vaccine schedule from CDC

Federal health officials now say healthy adults getting a COVID vaccine for the first time will receive a single bivalent shot. The Food and Drug Administration withdrew its emergency use authorization for the older two-dose mRNA vaccines that became available to most Americans in 2020. The original mRNA shots will no longer be used.

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“Here’s one simple way to think about it. Everyone 6 months and older should have at least one bivalent booster,” Ferrer said.

The agency also said that people at higher risk of developing severe COVID or long COVID — such as those with compromised immune systems or adults over 65 — are now eligible for an additional bivalent booster four months after their first shot. In L.A. County, 335,000 people are now eligible to receive an additional bivalent booster.

Children 5 years and under who have never been vaccinated can receive either two doses of Moderna’s shot for kids or three doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech shot. Those 5 years and older can receive two doses of Moderna’s bivalent shot or one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech bivalent shot.

The FDA is also expected to hold an advisory meeting in June to discuss COVID boosters for the fall.

What questions do you have about the pandemic and health care?
Jackie Fortiér helps Southern Californians understand the pandemic by identifying what's working and what's not in our health response.

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