From LAist. Click here for the original article.
In case you missed it, the state of California is now allowing those 65 and older to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
But in Los Angeles County, health officials say they aren’t ready to immunize people in that age group until February at the earliest (they simply don’t have enough vaccine). Meanwhile, Long Beach, as well as Orange, San Bernardino, and Riverside Counties are moving forward with the 65+ age group…but not without hurdles.
Of course, none of this is simple. It never is. We’re dealing with a massive amount of bureaucracy in addition to under-resourced, burnt-out public health departments, that have already been struggling to manage both the unprecedented pandemic and a surge in cases.
To get more clarity, we reached out to each city/county for details.
NOTE: This is an evolving story and will be updated as we get more information.
LOS ANGELES COUNTY
To repeat: L.A. County won’t immunize people in the 65+ age group until February at the earliest. The department is still focused on healthcare workers.
In the meantime, however, Dr. Paul Simon from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said the county will be using several different channels to make sure citizens are aware when their turn comes:
“Of course, we’ll be working with the media to get the word out. But in addition, [we’ll be] working with healthcare providers, who then will contact their patients who are in that age group. We’ll work with various organizations like the AARP, and others. And we have a newsletter that anyone can sign up for on our website. So we’ll use all of those channels to try to get the word out.”
That website is VaccinateLACounty.com. You put your email address in the gray box on the left side of the screen. When you sign up, you’ll be get updated via the newsletter on which groups are currently eligible to receive the vaccine.
Long Beach residents 65 and older can start getting the COVID-19 vaccine as early as Saturday, Jan. 16.
Appointments for the first distribution clinic this weekend are already full, so city officials say seniors should contact their healthcare providers first, or make a future appointment by emailing Covid19vaccine@longbeach.gov or calling 562-570-INFO.
Everyone with an appointment will need to bring a pay stub or employee ID to prove they’re a healthcare worker or first responder, or identification that shows they’re 65 or older and that they live in Long Beach.
“If they do not have the proof that we are asking for, then we do ask that they move along,” Kelly Colopy, the city’s Director of Health and Human Services, told our newsroom, “and so we have turned away quite a few people who are coming from outside of the city, or who are in tiers that are not yet being served.”
On Tuesday, Jan. 19, Long Beach will start vaccinating foodservice and grocery store workers.
Also next week, the city is launching an online portal called Vax LB where residents can enter their information and get notified when it’s their turn to be vaccinated.
Long Beach has vaccinated 15,000 healthcare workers and nursing home residents so far. It expects to begin administering the vaccine to the general public in early summer.
Tests may be scheduled online or by calling the City’s information line, 562.570.INFO (4636), between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays. Appointments are required and can be made up to three days in advance.
Riverside County began administering the COVID-19 vaccine to residents 65 and older Thursday, Jan. 14, in addition to frontline, essential workers in education, law enforcement, and agriculture.
Brooke Federico, a public information officer for Riverside County, says residents there will need to prove they’re eligible for the vaccine with “proof of employment through a pay stub, a work ID or a work badge, or a proof of employment letter from your employer” if you’re getting the vaccine because of your job.
If you’re 65 and older, you’ll need an ID to validate your age and show that you live in Riverside County.
Appointments are required. You can make them on the county health website, ruhealth.org. The website also has a list of pharmacies and urgent care centers that are providing the vaccine.
Note, however, that slots at the county clinics filled up within hours on Wednesday, Jan. 13, so there will likely be some initial tech hiccups.
Health officials say residents should check with their healthcare providers, if they have one, before signing up for the county vaccination sites.
The county is also working to add a notification feature to its website, to alert people when more appointments open up.
Orange County decided to adopt the state’s suggestion to expand vaccine distribution to the 65+ age group on Wednesday, Jan 13. As soon as officials made the announcement, more than 10,000 people scheduled appointments in less than two hours.
All that traffic overloaded the Othena app and website, which handles the appointments.
The chair of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, Andrew Do, acknowledged the issues and asked people to be patient:
“We are working on the technical side to increase the bandwidth in order to get people in to at least let them know that we have them in the system. And then when appropriate, we can then send out notices for the people that qualify.”
He added that people who are eligible to get vaccinated should contact their healthcare provider first to see how they can get vaccinated through their health network, instead of through a publicly-run site.
Currently, if you visit the county’s Othena.com site, you have to answer “yes” or “no” to “Do you live or work in Orange County?” and “Are you 65 or older?”.
If you click yes to both, you get a message saying “You are eligible to be vaccinated” and then you register with your name, DOB, race/ethnicity, employer, email, and phone number. Then you get this message:
We’ve reached out to Orange County’s health department for more information and have not yet heard back.
SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY
Officials announced Thursday, Jan. 14, that all San Bernardino County residents ages 65 and over are now eligible to receive the vaccine.
“We ask the community for patience as we continue to receive doses from the state of California to serve our senior population and as we continue to vaccinate health care workers,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Curt Hagman said in a statement.
At the same time, county officials say vaccine doses are scarce right now.
“The county will make every effort to lobby the State for the doses needed to quickly provide vaccinations for every senior in San Bernardino County who wants and needs protection,” a spokesperson said.
For now, they are taking appointments.
County residents 65 and over can make appointments through sbcovid19.com/vaccine.
Seniors can also sign up for email and text notifications to receive alerts about vaccination opportunities and other vaccination news through the “65+ Vaccine Notification Sign Up” link at sbcovid19.com/vaccine.Those who need assistance with appointments or signing up for notifications can call the COVID-19 hotline from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at (909) 387-3911.
Health officials in Ventura County hope to start vaccinating people 65 and older within the next two to three weeks.
Right now, the county is still only administering vaccines to people in Phase 1A, which includes health care workers and residents and staff at long-term care facilities.
Barry Zimmerman, who is the chief deputy director of the county’s health care agency, says, like L.A., the county does not have enough doses from the state to move on to the next phase of distribution.
“Our capacity to roll out and to vaccinate individuals is based on our ability to receive vaccines from the state,” he said. “At this time we’re averaging under 10,000 doses a week.”
Ventura County has requested more doses but has not yet received them.
Monica Bushman, Megan Ngyugen, Fiona Ng, and Gina Pollack contributed to this story.
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