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Limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine likely to slow rocky rollout for California seniors

Laura J. Nelson, Hayley Smith and Maya Lau, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES — As California launches massive COVID-19 vaccination sites to speed up inoculations, concern is growing among public health officials that the supply of doses could soon dry up.

State and local officials Friday complained that the scramble touched off by the federal government’s recommendation to add people 65 and older to vaccine eligibility lists has not been accompanied by an increase in shipments.

That could add to an already confusing and chaotic vaccine rollout, and limit the number of people who can be vaccinated in California, just as the state seems to be gaining ground.

California has administered nearly 1.2 million vaccines, or about 40% of the 3 million doses received, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday. That’s a significant increase since Monday, when the state had administered about 783,000 doses, less than one-third of the 2.5 million doses on hand.

But Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Friday that some pharmacies that would have received more vaccine shipments this week have to wait a week, “because the national supply simply isn’t coming.” Jeff Gorell, a deputy mayor, said Thursday that the city would receive 46,000 doses for their vaccination sites over the next few days, but that city officials “don’t know what the world looks like after Wednesday.”

“It’s not a problem with the state, it’s not a problem here locally,” Garcetti said. “We simply don’t have the supply coming in.”

 

U.S. governors said they had been expecting a sharp uptick in vaccine shipments, based on assurances from Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration initiative to marshal vaccines en masse. Instead, Newsom said Friday, officials “have “reneged on that, or for whatever reason are unable to deliver.”

Trump administration officials had assured U.S. governors that they would soon release doses from a stockpile of vaccines as a way to help states ramp up their vaccination efforts. The Washington Post reported Friday that the stockpile is already depleted, and that states will not receive additional shipments, slowing vaccination programs across the country.

A spokesperson for HHS did not return a request for comment.

President-elect Joe Biden echoed those concerns, criticizing the U.S. vaccine rollout Friday as “a dismal failure thus far.”

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