The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to provide more transport to vaccine sites and easier access to vaccines for seniors and other vulnerable populations.
Supervisor Hilda Solis said her motion was prompted by a conversation with a resident waiting in line at one of the county’s mega sites who had taken a series of long bus rides to get there.
There are now a total of 365 vaccination locations of various sizes open across the county’s sprawling geography, but that still leaves some neighborhoods and residents without easy access.
“With inclement weather, limited appointment availability and a limited but growing number of vaccine sites, the county has a responsibility to partner with transportation operators, authorities and companies to ensure community members, particularly those 65 and older, can access our vaccination sites with ease,” the motion states.
Supervisor Janice Hahn said representatives of Uber had reached out to her office to offer 20,000 free rides and another 40,000 discounted rides to support vaccination, and the company is working with the emergency management team to get something done.
The county will also begin sending mobile vaccine teams out to homebound seniors at housing projects in the hardest-hit communities next week, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told the board.
The federal government has also promised support for mobile solutions as it provides troops to help accelerate delivery of the vaccine, Solis said.
Another issue affecting access is how appointments are assigned at smaller neighborhood centers. The state’s My Turn system dictates that all sites must open access to any county resident, regardless of proximity to the facility.
Supervisor Holly Mitchell said she had heard from smaller community vaccine partners that this mandate — intended to make the vaccine more widely available — actually works to make it harder to vaccinate some of the most vulnerable residents.
Ferrer said county representatives are pressing the state to make changes to ensure more equitable distribution.
“What we need to do is make sure that the sites that are in the hard-hit communities have the ability to prioritize their patients and their neighbors,” Ferrer said.
The county reported Monday that Black residents had received a “shockingly” low percentage of doses — just 3.5% — highlighting the need to do a better job of reaching communities of color.
“We have a lot of work to do to fix this … whatever way you cut this data, it’s clear that in some of our hardest-hit communities there are populations that are not getting vaccinated at the same rate as other groups,” Ferrer said. “And we have to make sure we both understand that and then put in place all the strategies that are going to fix it, and we have to do this in real time, very quickly.”
Blue Shield will take over statewide allocation of the vaccine beginning next week, but Ferrer said the insurance providers had agreed to use a different set of metrics to measure the success of smaller sites to maintain a focus on equity.
“We need those smaller providers to remain as vaccination sites in L.A. County,” Ferrer told the board. “Many of them are trusted by the very people that really have had the hardest time during this pandemic, and that’s the place where I think many people will feel most comfortable getting vaccinated.”
As part of a broader campaign to improve the rate of vaccination, the county is also planning door-to-door outreach in heavily impacted neighborhoods to dispel myths about the vaccine.
The board directed public health and emergency management personnel to quickly reach agreements with transport operators and companies, including evaluating whether the county’s own transit services can be rerouted to provide direct access to mega sites.
The supervisors also called for the development of more mobile options and asked staffers to report back on implementation in two weeks.