Starting Thursday all adults over the age of 50 can receive a Covid-19 vaccine regardless of their health condition or employment sector, reflecting a 1.4 million increase in the number of eligible residents in L.A. County.

While vaccine supplies remain limited for now, dose allocations are expected to continue increasing in coming weeks. Based on federal government projections of vaccine production, public health officials estimate that 80 percent vaccine coverage can be reached for L.A. County residents age 16 and over by the end of June.

“Reaching such a milestone is possible with increased allocations, and it would dramatically change the trajectory of the pandemic here in L.A. County,” said L.A. County Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.

In two more weeks, on April 15, all residents over the age of 16 may register to receive a vaccine. This will mark the end of vaccine prioritization and expand eligibility to an estimated 3.9 million individuals.

In preparation for this vastly increased eligibility, the County is ramping up capacity at over 500 vaccination sites. Currently, L.A. County is receiving between 400,000 and 500,000 doses a week and this is expected to increase to 1 million doses by the end of April.

This is highly positive news for Los Angeles’s fight against Covid-19, however health officials warned that the County is not yet in the clear.

“While there’s much relief and joy in our plans to expand vaccine eligibility, as of this morning, cases of COVID-19 are rising in 30 states and territories across the country,” said Ferrer. “Public health officials, myself included, are concerned that we could see another surge.”

Currently cases in Los Angeles are the lowest they have been since the early days of the pandemic. As of March 22, the seven day average of daily cases is under 400, compared to a peak of over 15,000 reached at the height of the winter surge.

While L.A. County appears to be avoiding the 4th surge sweeping wide swaths of the nation, officials say the rise of Covid-19 variants discovered in L.A. County is cause for continued caution and diligence.

This week of the 49 specimens analyzed in the Department of Public Health’s labs, 43 percent were the California variant and 40 percent were the UK variant. Last week only 21 percent of variants analyzed were the UK variant, indicating that this more contagious variant is likely spreading further across Los Angeles.

“With the California and UK variants becoming the dominant variants in sample specimens, it’s increasingly important that we adhere to safety measures such as masking, social distancing and regular routine hand washing to avoid chances of increasing the circulation of these variants,” said Ferrer.

Ferrer said that continued commitment to health guidelines alongside increased vaccination rates have the potential to stave off another surge in cases, but that it will be up to each individual to do their part.

Clara@smdp.com