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As vaccine eligibility expands in Los Angeles County, officials are working to ensure equitable distribution and address continuing disparities in vaccinations across all communities.
Many counties are already offering the vaccines to those aged 16 and over, earlier than the expected date of April 15. That includes nearby Kern, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
L.A. County is preparing to join the ranks of those counties next week, but officials are concerned it’ll create further challenges for those who may have less access to online appointment sites, as a wider portion of the population with greater computer access crowds them out.
“As we expand eligibility, we need to also continue to push to increase vaccination coverage among those 65 and older, given their increased risk for severe illness with infection,” said Dr. Paul Simon, chief science officer with the L.A. County Department of Public Health.
Among those 65 and older about 70% have received at least one dose of vaccine, and in those 16 and older around 37% have received at least one dose, according to county data.
But Simon said the goal is to increase vaccination coverage among those 65 and older to 80% or higher.
In addition, despite overall progress in getting the vaccine into the arms of more residents across the region, data suggests disparities continue to exist within certain racial and ethnic groups.
“For those 65 and older, we continue to see disparities in vaccination coverage across racial and ethnic groups,” Simon said. “Though the gaps are closing. … Over a period of a month, we’ve increased vaccination coverage in every group.”
Similar disparities existed among those 16 and older, and officials are continuing to work to ensure accessibility across all groups, he said. Latino and Black communities also have much lower vaccination rates compared to others.
“We hope to rapidly increase these numbers and are implementing a number of measures to increase access to vaccination services among those in the hardest-hit communities,” he said.
Over 4 million vaccine doses have been administered in L.A. County as of April 4. This represents an increase of 702,000 over the previous nine days, meaning an average of about 78,000 doses administered daily during that span, according to county data.
Although it is a good sign that vaccination rates are increasing among the African American, Latino, American Indian and Alaskan Native communities, Simon says officials still need to move faster to expand the vaccine’s reach.
To help in closing some of these gaps, the county is distributing single-use codes to residents in these communities for vaccination appointments and dedicating certain days at specified clinics for residents of hard-hit communities.
They are also working with a large number of community organizations and clinics that are assisting their clients with accessing vaccination services, including assistance in registering clients for appointments, providing vaccinations at their sites and establishing pop-up vaccination clinics and easily accessible community venues, Simon said.
Another issue the county is facing in regards to vaccination outreach is the low rate of vaccination among males compared to females.
Through April 4, only 30% of males 16 and older received at least one dose of vaccine, compared to 43.8% of females across every ethnic group.
The vaccination coverage is lowest among Latino males, at 17.1%, and Black males, at 19%.
To address this issue, Simon says the county will work on developing tailored messaging and outreach to increase vaccination coverage among men, while focusing on the hardest hit communities where residents have had more difficulty accessing vaccination services.
The county is continuing to expand the number of vaccination sites and services. Currently there are over 700 locations where vaccines are being administered.
Next week, there will be a decrease in the number of Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses administered due to supply constraints.
However, there will be an increase in the supply of both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
There will be an increase next week of 265,000 doses of Pfizer and 139,000 doses of Moderna.
A total of 70% of doses will go to vaccination sites located in the hardest hit communities, as defined by the state’s vaccine equity metric, as well as locations with high COVID-19 case rates, Simon said.
It is estimated that over 500,000 doses of vaccine will be allocated to vaccination sites across the county next week.
Simon says the county urges all employers to give their employees enough time to get vaccinated to help ensure a highly vaccinated workforce for the health of the employees and to create a safe workplace for employees, customers and visitors.
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