Los Angeles County remains poised to ramp up administration of COVID-19 vaccine booster shots once federal authorities give final approval to the additional doses, the public health director said Thursday, noting that the county will continue prioritizing getting more first doses into arms of the unvaccinated.
An advisory panel for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday recommended Pfizer booster shots for people 65 and older, those in long-term care facilities and people 50-64 with underlying health conditions, as well as select people aged 18-49 with serious health issues. The shots would have to be administered at least six months after a person received their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
The recommendation still needs approval from the full CDC.
“Once we receive the CDC agency director’s recommendation, we’ll obviously work with the state and our local partners to ensure that those eligible for boosters are able to get their third dose, while prioritizing as always continuing to reach those that have not yet gotten their first dose and those that are most at risk of poor outcomes,” county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said during a media video conference.
According to Ferrer, slightly more than 1 million people in the county received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine prior to April 1, with about 420,000 of them being aged 65 and older.
“Many others were health care workers and people with severe risk of severe illness from COVID,” she said. “… We are prepared once CDC finalizes eligibility guidance to administer boosters to everyone who needs to get this dose.”
She noted again that the county has 1,300 fixed vaccination sites, along with 400 mobile clinics, meaning there’s a local capacity to administer 130,000 shots per day, so the county is well-positioned to handle demand for booster shots.
The county has already doled out more than 80,000 third doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccine under earlier federal guidance that allowed such shots who are considered moderately to severely immunocompromised by serious health conditions such as cancer or other maladies that place them at high risk of illness or death from COVID.
While touting the county’s preparedness for administering more booster shots, Ferrer on Thursday continued to lament the dramatically slowed pace of first-dose vaccinations. She noted the county has made significant progress since the spring, but added, “There are areas where our rates are still well below where they need to be, particularly in the northern part of the county.”
As of this week, 77% of eligible county residents aged 12 and over have received at least one dose, and 68% are fully vaccinated. Of the county’s overall 10.3 million population, including those still ineligible for shots, 66% have received at least one dose, and 59% are fully vaccinated.
The county’s rate of new infections has continued falling, with the highest rate now among unvaccinated youth between 12 and 17 years old. Ferrer noted that vaccinated residents in the same age group have the county’s lowest rate of new infections. Cases among the unvaccinated youth peaked in mid- August, around the time schools reopened their campuses, many with mandatory testing programs that increased infection numbers.
Ferrer credited continuing health measures, such as mask-wearing requirements and mandatory vaccination or testing requirements for large events, with keeping new case numbers low in the county. She presented numbers showing the county’s infection and death rates at just a fraction of those in Texas and Florida, states that have shunned such infection-control measures.
“In places where sensible steps have not been taken to reduce the spread of the virus, the Delta strain continues to ruin futures and take lives at a rapid pace,” Ferrer said.
Los Angeles County reported another 32 COVID-19 deaths on Thursday, giving the county an overall death toll of 25,942. Another 1,900 cases were reported, raising the total number from throughout the pandemic to 1,449,923.
According to state figures, there were 991 COVID-positive patients in Los Angeles County hospitals as of Thursday, the same as Wednesday. There were 314 patients in intensive care, up from 305 a day ago.
The number of COVID-positive hospital patients in Los Angeles County had dropped each of the nine previous days, and has now fallen 22 times in the past 24 days.
The rolling average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus in the county was 1.52% as of Thursday, down slightly from 1.7% on Wednesday.