COVID-19 Update: Vaccine Availability Still Scarce

COVID-19 numbers continue to decline throughout Los Angeles County with fewer reported cases and hospitalizations compared to early January.
However, there is a number public health officials would like to see increase: vaccine doses.
The county announced on Monday that seven of its vaccination sites — including Magic Mountain, the Pomona Fairplex, Cal State Northridge and the Forum — are only administering second doses this week.
“Due to limited supplies of the vaccine, the county is limiting the number of new and first dose appointments,” County Supervisor Hilda Solis said on Monday. “This is to ensure that we have enough doses to guarantee a second dose for people who already received the first one. Once our supplies improve, we will offer more first-time appointments.”

Solis added that the state has ramped up its efforts in distributing more vaccines but Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer expects the supply to remain limited in the coming weeks.
As of the Review’s press deadline on Wednesday, county officials had confirmed a cumulative total of 1,227 coronavirus cases among South Pasadena residents, of whom 38 have died from the disease. In the prior 14 days, at least 91 residents had received positive tests. Since the start of the year, 371 residents have gotten COVID-19, according to county figures.
In a virtual briefing on Wednesday, Ferrer said that the county anticipates an average of 200,000 vaccine doses in the next several weeks. Many frontline workers still need to be vaccinated a well as 80% of residents 65 years and older.
As of Feb. 4, the county has received 1.28 million vaccine doses and administered 82% of them. However, the number of doses in each shipment varies. On Jan. 11, L.A. County received 193,950 doses but received only 137,725 two weeks later.
“It is hard to manage a vaccination program with so much variability in the weekly allocation,” Ferrer said.
The scarcity of vaccines has also made it challenging for school districts to move ahead with any plans of providing on-campus services.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has been pushing the past month for schools to reopen and said on Tuesday that his office is negotiating a $6.6 billion package with the legislature that would allocate money for schools to reopen safely and allow the youngest cohorts of students to return. He expressed confidence that a deal would be agreed upon as early as Friday.
Despite his efforts, Ferrer said that L.A. County is a “ways away” from moving into the next group of people eligible for the vaccine, which includes teachers. There are an estimated 668,000 people who work at schools and day-care sites, according to public health officials.
Ferrer acknowledged that the Department of Public Health saw very few outbreaks among the 1,500 schools — 300 of which were granted a waiver to provide in-person instruction for transitional kindergartners through 2nd grade — that are open, saying “they were all very small and very well contained.”
The same couldn’t be said for the food production industry and grocery stories. Ferrer stressed the importance of taking care of essential workers that “keep our communities functional” and added that one of their priorities is to be able to make the vaccine more accessible to people with limited resources.
Public Health officials also stated that, as of Monday, there have been five confirmed cases of the coronavirus variant from the United Kingdom, but they have not seen any cases of the more infectious South Africa variant.
Though the South African variant hasn’t been detected in L.A. County, Ferrer said it “doesn’t mean it’s not here,” and advised residents to continue taking extra precautions going into the Valentine’s Day holiday and Presidents Day weekend.
Zane Hill contributed to this report.