COVID vaccine appointments become readily available in LA County; officials blame scheduling, not demand

The Cal State LA mass vaccination site had quite a mess on its hands. Too many people showed up for their COVID-19 vaccine.

The challenge in keeping up with the demand comes after officials announced that drop-in appointments were available at the Cal State LA vaccine site.

By 9 a.m. Thursday, cars lined up down the hills from the school, across the 10 Freeway and up Eastern Avenue, with vehicles trying to get in. Many parked their cars and braved the head to get in lines.

By 10:30 a.m., staff started turning away people without appointments, saying the demand had outpaced the supply.

COVID-19 VACCINE FINDER

In a written statement, Greg Renick, on behalf of FEMA and the California Office of Emergency Services, explained that they could no longer accommodate the walkups, and people wanting to be vaccinated at the site needed to make an appointment at MyTurn.ca.gov website or by calling 833-422-4255 prior to coming to Cal State LA.

Control of the site will be turned over to the City of Los Angeles, next week. Up until now, over 300,000 thousand doses have been administered at the Cal State location and its associated mobile vaccination clinics.

They are hoping to inoculate 350,000 people by the end of Sunday.

The Cal State LA site is not run by Los Angeles County, as people do not have to be 50 to make appointments.

COVID-19 vaccination appointments appeared widely available but Los Angeles County's public health director said it was likely the result of scheduling issues, not a sign of dwindling demand.

Barbara Ferrer said that even if there is a sudden wide availability of appointments, it doesn't mean the county should immediately expand eligibility to everyone aged 16 and over, which is scheduled to occur April 15.

"There's 5.5 million people in (currently) eligible groups, and all of them have not received their first dose," Ferrer said. "... We only opened for people 50 and older a few days ago, so we're going to continue to make sure there's good access."

RELATED: Southern California Vaccine Finder: Where to get your COVID-19 shot

Governor's Office of Emergency Services officials announced on Wednesday that there were immediate appointments available for vaccines at the federally operated site at Cal State LA and LA County Supervisor Janice Hahn took to Twitter to say there were slots waiting at a vaccination center in San Pedro.

But Ferrer noted that appointment slots often open in waves since sites can't list available appointments until they are assured of their supply of doses.

"One of the dilemmas here is that we're still struggling to be able to actually release appointments ahead of time, and many of us really are still only able to release appointments a couple days in advance of when ... people can go and get vaccinated,'' she said. "We're really trying to work hard to get a smoother forecast moving forward."

Often when people go online and find a wealth of available slots, "it's because somebody just opened up a host of appointments,'' Ferrer said.

She said health officials monitor activity at the various vaccination sites, and if appointments aren't filled, capacity is increased at other sites with higher demand. She said the county is "looking into what might explain why at some sites we have more availability this week," but she said vaccine doses are not going unused. She noted that the county generally administers about 95% of the doses it receives within seven days.

"The goal here is always, and we've been great about this ... (to) get vaccine into people's arms within a seven-day period, and we are never carrying over a vaccine one week to the next,'' she said. ``And we've always met that goal."

She said she did not foresee a reversal of that trend this week, despite a sudden surge in appointment availability.

"Until we start seeing a problem this week with actually filling appointments for the rest of the week, I would say we're on a pretty good path to making sure those doses are actually administered," she said.

City News Service contributed to this report.

Get your top stories delivered daily! Sign up for FOX 11’s Fast 5 newsletter. And, get breaking news alerts in the FOX 11 News app. Download for iOS or Android.