Los Angeles is temporarily closing five mass vaccination sites, including Dodger Stadium, for lack of supply as the state faces continuing criticism over a vaccine rollout a lawmaker called “nothing short of chaotic.”
Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday the city will exhaust its supply of Moderna first doses — two are required for full immunization — by Thursday, forcing it to close drive-through and walk-up vaccination sites on Friday and Saturday.
The sites, which can handle thousands of shots daily, may not reopen until the city gets more supplies. They may possibly come next Tuesday or Wednesday although smaller mobile vaccination clinics will continue their work, he said.
Los Angeles, which has 10 million residents, only received 16,000 new doses this week while it uses about 13,000 doses in a typical day, Garcetti said.
“This is not where I want to be,” Garcetti said. “It’s not where we deserve to be.”
“I’m hoping that there’s some federal official out there, some state official who tonight got the good news that some more doses are on their way someplace,” he said.
The announcement came as some counties complained that California’s current system of parceling out vaccines undercounts the number of shots they’ve administered, potentially crimping efforts to stem the coronavirus outbreak by immunizing the majority of the state’s 40 million residents.
California has edged past New York in the grim statistic of number of deaths due to COVID-19, according Johns Hopkins University data reported Thursday. California’s death toll reached 45,496, surpassing New York’s toll of 45,312.
Broadly, however, the state is making progress on controlling the virus. Less than 5% of people tested are now turning up positive results, and daily confirmed infection cases have dropped to about 8,400 from a high of more than 50,000 a month ago, Gov. Gavin Newsom said.
At the same time, troubling COVID-19 mutations are making their way into the nation’s most populous state. The first cases of a South African strain were reported Wednesday in Alameda and Santa Clara counties in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Another variant from the United Kingdom has appeared in several counties.
In total, the state has less than 1,500 identified cases of different variants, Newsom said.
Scientists and health officials fear the variants could be more contagious, less responsive to treatments and more likely to re-infect people who already had the virus.
Newsom touted that more than 5 million vaccine doses have been administered, but criticism continues over the way his administration has handled distribution.
At a legislative hearing Wednesday, two county health officers said the state’s database is undercounting the number of vaccines administered, which could restrict future supplies if it appears counties aren’t quickly using up their doses.
“The system isn’t broken, it just looks like it is,” said Yolo County Public Health Officer Dr. Aimee Sisson. The county received 14,000 doses and administered 10,400 to date, she said. But the state system says the county got 14,500 shots and gave just 7,500.
“A decision based on bad data will be a bad decision,” Sisson said. “California vaccine rollout is hamstrung by poor data quality at the state level.”
The rollout so far has been “nothing short of chaotic,” said Assemblyman Jose Medina, D-Riverside.
“We completely agree with what you’re saying,” responded Dr. Tomás Aragón, director of the California Department of Public Health.
A statement from the department said there were “no discrepancies with the total number of vaccines administered statewide, but we are looking into” the issues described.
The state plans to shift next week from a county-driven vaccine effort to a centralized approach run by Blue Shield of California that will be designed to provide “more clarity, more transparency and more accountability,” Newsom said.
The state has yet to release the details or cost of the contract with the major health insurer, though Newsom said he will by the end of this week.