Los Angeles County Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Janice Hahn called for additional flexibility in vaccinating as many residents as possible, to include a process to vaccinate those 65 and older.

“Efficient and effective distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine to our residents and communities is the most critical hurdle in our ability to recover from this virus,” Barger said in a statement. “While we continue to prioritize the vaccination of healthcare workers who have been on the frontlines caring for our vulnerable residents, we must add flexibility to this process and begin efforts to vaccinate those 65 and older.”

Hahn said in a statement that Gov. Gavin Newsom has encouraged all counties to open vaccination appointments to residents 65 and older so that those who are most vulnerable to the virus are protected.

“LA County needs to follow the State’s lead without further delay,” she said in the statement.

Los Angeles County, in accordance with California guidelines, continues to vaccinate its healthcare workers as the priority population in Phase 1A.  Persons 65 and older are categorized under Phase 1B Tier 1.

Phase 1A Tier 1 includes healthcare workers and residents of skilled nursing facilities and of other long-term care facilities. Tier 1 also includes healthcare workers in acute care hospitals, correctional facility hospitals, emergency medical services, including emergency medical technicians and paramedics and residential and inpatient mental health facilities.

Phase 1A Tier 2 includes healthcare workers in the Department of Children and Family services Short-Term Residential Therapeutic Programs and Transitional Shelter Care Program Facilities, the Department of Mental Health, home healthcare organizations and home health agencies, primary care clinics, urgent care clinics, and medical shelters.

Phase 1A Tier 3 includes healthcare workers in the following area: Acupuncture, chiropractors, COVID-19 testing, mortuaries, dental and other oral health clinics; laboratories, school and university health centers and surgery centers.

LA County Public Health, in collaboration with the County Fire Department, Internal Services Department and the Office of Emergency Management, is planning to open five large-capacity vaccination sites this week that will speed up vaccinations for frontline healthcare workers in Phase 1A, a department spokesperson wrote in an email.

“Public Health department staff are being reassigned in order to expand capabilities for this short-term effort,” the email said. “These five sites, in addition to our private partner sites, will allow us to complete 500,000 additional vaccinations among healthcare workers by the end of January.” 

According to the Public Health website, the estimated timeline for the Phase 1B Tier 1 vaccinations is early February. In addition to persons 65 and older, Phase 1B Tier 1 include persons at risk of exposure in education and childcare, emergency services and food and agriculture.

While the county still prioritizes the vaccination of healthcare workers, it is crucial to implement flexibility to vaccinate as many residents as possible and a process to begin vaccinating those 65 and older, Barger and Hahn said in a joint release.

The county must ensure that its frontline healthcare workers are protected and limit the spread of COVID-19 from staff in its healthcare facilities. Nevertheless, more than 70% of COVID-19-related fatalities have been among residents over the age of 65 and the immediate vaccination of the county’s most vulnerable neighbors cannot be delayed, the release said.

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