Southland health agencies and other providers — with the exception of the city of Los Angeles — began vaccinating youth aged 12 to 15 against COVID-19 Thursday, with federal authorities giving final approval for use of the Pfizer vaccine on that age group.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said city-run vaccination sites, including Dodger Stadium, will not begin offering shots to the newly eligible group until Friday.
Shortly after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s immunization advisory committee voted Wednesday to approve the use of the Pfizer vaccine on the younger age group, the city of Long Beach announced it will begin offering the shot to those aged 12 to 15 starting Thursday.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health also quickly cleared its sites and other providers in the county to begin offering the inoculations starting Thursday. Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said there are about 500,000 county residents aged 12 to 15.
“It is a key group of individuals for us to reach so that we can increase our coverage in terms of the county’s total population,” Ferrer said Thursday.
She noted that while younger residents have been consistently had lower numbers of COVID infections during the pandemic, infections do happen. She said during COVID surges experienced by the county, between 10% and 17% of cases were occurring in people under age 18.
“So as a reminder, it’s important to note that there are in fact cases among children and that children are particularly vulnerable whenever we see an increase in community transmission,” she said. “So they, just like us, benefit from keeping community transmission rates down very low.”
Grocery chain Ralphs also announced that its pharmacies began offering shots to those 12 to 15 starting Thursday. CVS pharmacies also opened inoculations to the new group.
Thursday morning, Rite Aid also announced it was administering COVID-19 vaccines to anyone 12 or older at all locations offering the Pfizer vaccine. Guardians for individuals under 18 can schedule appointments using the Rite Aid scheduling tool found at www.RiteAid.com/covid-19.
Rite Aid also said it is enabling schools and organizations in its footprint to inquire about vaccine clinics directly with the company by visiting www.riteaid.com/covid-19/community-clinics.
Only the Pfizer vaccine is approved for youth age 12 to 17. A full list of vaccination sites in Los Angeles County offering the Pfizer vaccine is available at bit.ly/PfizerSites.
County officials noted that anyone age 12 to 17 must be accompanied by an adult at a vaccination site.
Officials in Long Beach, which has its own health department separate from the county, said the Pfizer shots are available to those 12 and older without an appointment at:
— the Long Beach Convention Center, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursdays and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays;
— Cabrillo High School, 2001 Santa Fe Ave., from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays; and
— Tucker Middle School, 2221 Argonne Ave., from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Wednesdays.
Long Beach also stressed that people age 12 to 17 must have parental consent to be vaccinated. The city has a consent form available online at www.longbeach.gov/globalassets/health/media-library/documents/diseases-and-condition/information-on/novel-coronavirus/vaccines/vaccine-consent-minor-form.
“This is a huge milestone in our effort to fully vaccinate everyone against COVID-19,” Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said. “By getting vaccinated, these kids protect not only themselves but everyone around them.”
Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chair Hilda Solis issued a statement Wednesday urging parents to get their teenagers vaccinated.
“Although children and teens have been at lower risk than adults to be hospitalized or have severe illness from COVID-19, they can still carry and pass on the virus to more vulnerable adults, and their lives have been upended as a result,” Solis said.
“At the county, we are prepared to administer these vaccines at a variety of sites — from our larger sites, to parks administering the Pfizer vaccine, to those set up on school campuses directly. By doing so, we can give children and their families the peace of mind that they will soon be able to add another level of security to their protection from this virus and brings us closer to our new normal.”
Ferrer said Monday that if the county can maintain its pace of administering about 400,000 doses per week, “herd immunity” could be achieved by mid to late July. Health officials are estimating that 80% of county residents will need to get vaccinated to reach that point.
County officials had earlier estimated that the bulk of county residents could be vaccinated by late June. But demand for the vaccine has tailed off — both in the county and statewide — in recent weeks.
Vaccines are now being offered without appointments at all county- and city-run vaccination sites, while authorities are emphasizing mobile clinics that reach into neighborhoods with low rates of inoculations.
According to figures provided Thursday, only 38% of Black residents in the county aged 16 and up have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 43% of Latinx residents. That compares to 61% of white residents and 68% of Asians.
Overall, 59% of county residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine, Ferrer said.
The county on Thursday confirmed another 17 COVID-19 deaths, lifting the death toll from throughout the pandemic to 24,057.
Another 284 COVID infections were also confirmed by the county, for a pandemic total of 1,236,456.
According to state figures, there were 366 people hospitalized in the county due to COVID as of Thursday, down from 375 on Wednesday, with 85 people in intensive care, up from 84 on Wednesday.