LA County preparing for eventual rise in COVID vaccine supply

Los Angeles County this week crossed the milestone of administering 3 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, and the county's science officer said planning is under way for an anticipated dramatic increase in vaccine supply in hopes of eventually doling out 1 million doses per week.

The county currently has the capability of administering about 630,000 doses per week, but due to limited supply, only about 300,000 to 350,000 doses are actually being administered per week. Next week, the county will only be receiving about 280,000 doses, although that number will be augmented by
supplies sent directly to some providers, such as the federally operated site
at Cal State Los Angeles.

Dr. Paul Simon, chief science officer for the county Department of Public Health, said Friday that given the progress already being made in vaccinations, if supplies dramatically increase by late April or early May -- as predicted by President Joe Biden -- the county could move rather quickly through the rest of the population.

"To ensure we are prepared for this increase, we have begun planning with our vaccine provider network to expand countywide vaccination capacity to more than 1 million doses per week,'' Simon said. "Recently, President Biden made the announcement of opening up vaccinations to everyone over the age of 16
by May 1. We look forward (to working) with the state to meet this goal.''

But he also warned that despite the progress in vaccinations, "we are entering a perilous time.''

"In Europe and some regions of the U.S. there has been a recent resurgence in cases and hospitalizations,'' he said. "In addition, spread of virus variants remains a major concern. For this reason, it is imperative that we remain disciplined in our adherence to the use of face masks, physical distancing, avoiding large gatherings and delaying any non-essential travel.''

According to Simon, as of Wednesday, 3,234,989 total doses of the vaccine were administered in the county, although he conceded that due to reporting delays the number is likely much higher.

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

Of those doses, 2,177,195 were first doses -- including 25,170 of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine -- and 1,057,794 were second doses. That means roughly 1,080,000 people who live or work in the county have been fully vaccinated.

Simon said if vaccinations continue on the current pace, by the time supplies increase in late April or early May, the county will be deep into the inoculation effort. If the county begins receiving up to 1 million doses per week -- with a good amount of it the one-dose Johnson & Johnson medication -- "we could then work through the general adult population pretty quickly, within a month or two.''

The deeper the county gets into the vaccination effort, however, vaccine hesitancy among some people will become a larger problem, Simon said,
meaning more outreach will need to be done.

"I think we're going to have to work very hard to make sure that everybody has accurate informiaton about the vaccines,'' he said. "And if the vaccines continue to demonstrate the strong safety profile that they have so far, we can continue to reassure people that they are safe. That will become important.''

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