Training at L.A. Surge Hospital

Staff undergo training at the Los Angeles Surge Hospital, a temporary facility at the former St. Vincent Medical Center.

Los Angeles County could receive its initial allocation of roughly 84,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses as early as next week, with initial priority given to health care workers, the county's public heath director said today.

The news came on a day the county confirmed another 8,547 cases of the coronavirus, along with another 64 deaths -- pushing the countywide death toll from the virus to the 8,000 mark. The number of people hospitalized in the county also passed the 3,000 mark, reaching 3,113.

The pending arrival of vaccines offers some glimmer of hope about a potential end to the pandemic, but officials noted it will be well into next year until vaccines are available to the general public.

With health care workers deemed a top priority in receiving vaccinations in what is known as "Phase 1a" of the CDC-determined distribution plan, the county will distribute the initial wave of doses to acute-care hospitals, county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told the Board of Supervisors. But there won't be enough vaccine for all workers in the first round.

"There is not enough in this initial allocation to vaccinate all of the health care workers at all of the acute-care hospitals, which will be the first priority," Ferrer said.

She said the county hopes to receive a second allocation of vaccines by Dec. 21, with priority expanding to include residents and staff at skilled nursing centers and long-term care facilities. That distribution will be administered through federal government contracts with CVS and Walgreens, Ferrer said.

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Ferrer said the vaccine distribution will then spread to other priority locations, including dialysis centers, infusion centers, substance-abuse and mental-health facilities and primary care clinics, as well as public health clinical and field workers, home health care and in-home supportive services workers and health care workers at pharmacies. Following will be clinical labs and imaging centers and specialty clinics.

Although the pending arrival of vaccines offered some hope that the pandemic could be moving closer to an end, officials said widespread vaccination is still months away.

"Let's be honest, it's going to be awhile 'til, you know, we really can vaccinate all of L.A. County,'' Supervisor Janice Hahn said.

She noted that with the number of health care workers and staff and residents and nursing facilities and long-term care centers ranging between 250,000 and 300,000 -- and the fact that the vaccination requires two doses -- that's 600,000 doses that need to be administered before the general public will start having access.

Hahn also recognized that there may still be public resistance to taking a hastily developed vaccines, but said, "I think the vast majority of people want to get back to their lives."

The board approved a motion calling on public health officials to report back next month on funding needs for vaccine administration, including a "messaging campaign" to reach out to the public about the availability and safety of the vaccine, particularly in vulnerable communities that may "resist taking the vaccine."

The county remains under a state regional stay-at-home order. It was triggered when intensive-care unit bed availability fell below 15% in the 11-county Southern California region. As of today, the ICU availability in the region was estimated at 10.1%.

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