Vaccinations for seniors in county begin, but it’s slow going

by Steven Felschundneff |

When Supervisor Hilda Solis announced last week that residents 65 and over could make appointments to receive the coronavirus vaccine, interest was so great that it temporally crashed the county’s vaccine portal.

Many readers of the COURIER have called or sent messages asking about getting the vaccine. However, while doses remain in short supply, it is still possible to get an appointment through the county at or even through one of the private partners that also offer the inoculation.

Vaccinations continue to proceed at a slow pace in the county, but progress is being made. As of this week, 662,963 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered within Los Angeles County, including 544,049 first doses and 118,914 second doses. Each week there is an allocation from the federal government to the state that determines the number of vaccines allocated to L.A. County. This week, the county only received about 137,000 doses.

The challenge continues to be the sheer demand from the public now that roughly 1.3 million residents 65 and over can make vaccine appointments. That number, in addition to 600,000 healthcare workers and another 100,000 in congregate settings, equals roughly 2 million people who currently qualify for the inoculation. However, being fully vaccinated requires two doses, so the county needs 4 million doses to cover all of these people.

“Our ability to vaccinate remains constrained by supply,” Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said.

On Tuesday at the large county-run inoculation center at the Fairplex, people were lining up ahead of the 9 a.m. opening. The process went fairly smoothly with only one motorist getting through the line without an appointment. He was instructed to return home and use the county website for an appointment.

Nurse Kim Harrison, an Iowa resident, was friendly but efficient as she checked paperwork and gave brief instructions to each patient before using a simple syringe to inoculate the individual. She is on a 90-day special assignment here in Los Angeles County due in part to the size of the local outbreak and the resulting shortage of medical staff.

The Fairplex site is drive-through only, and they have set up tents so that the operation can continue seven-days-a-week even if there is rain. The complex is set up for efficiency, with several large tents each with four or five rows of cars and at least two medical professionals working each line of cars.

After receiving the vaccine, residents are ushered to a waiting area to ensure that no one has an adverse reaction to the vaccine. Medical staff are on hand so in the event that someone does have a reaction, the paramedics will be called.

Every resident who receives the vaccine is guaranteed a second dose, according to Los Angels County Department of Public Health. Most individuals will return to the same site where they received the first dose. Many individuals vaccinated at a county site received the date and location of their second dose appointment on their vaccination card.

Claremont resident Joyce Sauter received her coronavirus vaccine on Monday at the Vons Pharmacy on Base Line Road. Ms. Sauter is a regular customer at the pharmacy and she put her name on a list to receive a call from the pharamscist in case there was an open appointment.

She said when they called at 7 p.m. Monday she was already ready for bed but changed out of her pajamas and headed down. Besides her medical information, the only thing she brought was a book so she would have something to do while waiting to make sure she did not have an allergic reaction.

“At age 87 I qualified,” she joked. Ms. Sauter said that she had no ill effects from the shot and has an appointment in February for her second dose. She hopes to visit her grandchildren in Idaho once she is fully inoculated, but she still has concerns about the new strains of the virus, such as the one from England.

Claremont’s skilled nursing facilities continue the process of vaccinating their employees and staff, including a vaccination clinic scheduled for next week at Claremont Place Assisted Living and Memory Care, according to Executive Director Nicole Vasquez.

“Access to the COVID-19 vaccine will add one more preventative measure to Claremont Place’s commitment to the safety and well being of its residents and employees,” Ms. Vazquez said in a statement.

“We are thrilled for our residents and employees to have access to the COVID-19 vaccine in the first-tier group,” says Kevin Carlin, principal and chief sales officer of Meridian Senior Living, the company that runs Claremont Place. “We look forward to seeing the expressions of relief on the faces of the residents and staff as the vaccinations are administered.”


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