Los Angeles County health officials marked a significant milestone Tuesday, announcing that more than 15 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the county, but they said more needs to be done to reach people still resistant to the shots — especially as new variants emerge.
As of last Thursday, more than 15.2 million doses of vaccine have been administered in the county, a number that rose dramatically in recent weeks thanks to the expanded availability of booster doses.
“The delivery of 15 million vaccines required a network of hundreds of providers willing to extend their services to serve residents across every community in the county,” county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “While we are proud of the work collectively done to administer 15 million vaccines in L.A. County, it is clear that we will need to continue to support vaccination efforts for months to come as we try to reach those still unvaccinated, those who need boosters, and those who are newly eligible.
“We have also learned that this network is not just focused on ensuring access, rather, this network needs to engage in outreach, provide culturally respectful information, and connect residents to additional needed supports.”
According to the county, there are still roughly 3.4 million people currently eligible for a booster shot who have not yet received one, and 2.2 million people aged 5 and over who have not yet received their first dose.
The news came on a day the state announced a 47% increase in COVID infections rates statewide in the weeks since Thanksgiving — prompting the implementation of a statewide indoor mask-wearing mandate, mirroring the one that has remained in place in Los Angeles County.
The upward trends affecting the state have been noticeable in L.A. County, with Ferrer last week saying the rising numbers are indicative of a post-Thanksgiving spike that could lead to a feared winter surge in infections.
She said that on Dec. 1, the county’s seven-day average daily number of new cases topped 1,000 — a 19% increase from the previous week.
The county’s average daily rate of new infections rose to 13 per 100,000 residents in early December, up from 8 per 100,000 residents the previous week. The seven-day cumulative rate of infections rose to 113 per 100,000, moving the county back into the category of “high” transmission as defined by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The county was previously in the less-severe “substantial” transmission category. That category requires a county to have a cumulative seven-day transmission rate of less than 100 cases per 100,000 residents.
On Monday, the county reported another 11 COVID-19 deaths, lifting its overall virus-related death toll to 27,341.
Another 1,123 cases were also reported, for a cumulative pandemic total of 1,540,200.
According to state figures, there were 718 people hospitalized with COVID in the county as of Monday, up from 698 on Sunday. Of those patients, 190 were being treated in intensive care, up from 179 on Sunday.
On Monday, the Pasadena Public Health Department reported its first laboratory-confirmed case of a resident contracting COVID-19 with mutations consistent with the new Omicron variant.
“Now is the time for anyone who is not yet vaccinated to get fully vaccinated, and for everyone 16 years and older to get a booster dose,” said Dr. Ying-Ying Goh, health officer and director of the Pasadena Public Health Department. “Getting vaccinated, including a booster, remains your best defense against COVID-19 variants.”
The infected person was fully vaccinated with a booster dose and had not recently traveled internationally, city officials said. The virus was likely transmitted locally in early December.
The Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was first identified in Africa. Before the case in Pasadena was reported, Los Angeles County had previously confirmed a total of seven cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, while Long Beach — which has its own health department — had confirmed one.
The Omicron variant has been deemed a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, it remains unclear if the variant is more easily transmitted or can cause more severe illness. The previously identified Delta variant — blamed for the most recent surge in cases nationwide — remains the dominant mutation in circulation, representing more than 99% of all COVID specimens that have undergone genetic testing in the county, Ferrer said this week.
According to the most recent figures, 83% of county residents aged 12 and over have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 75% are fully vaccinated. Of all eligible residents aged 5 and over, 77% have received at least one dose, and 69% are fully vaccinated.
Of the more than 6.15 million fully vaccinated people in the county, 84,931 have tested positive, or about 1.38%. A total of 2,798 vaccinated people have been hospitalized, for a rate of 0.046%, and 537 have died, for a rate of 0.009%.