About half-a-million people in Los Angeles County have now gotten their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine--including many seniors--but some are now worried they might not get an appointment for a second dose.
“I’m more stressed now than I’ve been for the 9 or 10 months I’ve been locked up, because I’m halfway there. I have half the immunity," said Burbank resident Denise Wilcox, who snagged a slot last Thursday to get a first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, at the county-run Magic Mountain vaccination site in Valencia.
Wilcox told the I-Team she tried to make an appointment for her second dose as she was leaving the site for 21 days later--as recommended by Pfizer--but said a nurse told her, "It’s up to you to get the appointment. We’ll try to send you an email reminder, but you have to make it."
Wilcox has now been logging onto LA County's vaccination site every few minutes but says there are no appointments available anywhere. "They can’t leave us hanging out to dry," Wilcox added.
The I-Team questioned LA County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer about whether people who got the first dose will be able to get the important second "booster" shot within the recommended window of time. Data suggests both shots together provide around 95% immunity from COVID symptoms.
"I want people to know, you are guaranteed a second dose," said Ferrer.
She said the county is keeping track of its inventory of the vaccines and reserving supplies for everyone to get both doses.
Ferrer added that everyone who got a first shot at a county-run mega site will receive an email about their second appointment.
"They don’t need to do anything to get an appointment. We will pre-register everyone who goes through our site for their second appointment, and you will generally be registered at the same time you had your first appointment,” Ferrer said.
The I-Team has also heard from worried seniors who got their first vaccine dose at privately run sites, like Ralphs supermarkets.
Eighty-six year old Carolyn, who asked us not to use her full name because she's a loyal Ralphs customer, says she got her first dose of the vaccine at Ralphs on Jan. 13, but says the pharmacist refused to schedule her for the second shot. Her son Geoff tells NBC4 he's been calling Ralphs every day since then to set up the second appointment with no luck.
"They don’t even answer the phone. The phone just rings and rings and rings and nothing," Carolyn told NBC4. They've also gone to the Ralphs vaccination website, but she says there are never any appointments available.
Ralphs spokesman John Votava told the I-Team in an email that the company "will be following up with anyone who received their first COVID-19 vaccination at Ralphs, but has not yet scheduled their second dose." (Ralphs full statement available below)
The companies that produce the vaccines recommend getting second doses at specific intervals after the first dose: Pfizer recommends its second dose 21 days after the first, while Moderna suggests 28 days later.
However, Ferrer said based on new guidance from the CDC, it is fine to wait up to two weeks longer than those recommendations.
"No one should worry if you don’t get vaccinated until day 25 and you received the Pfizer vaccine, or until day 32 or 35 if you receive the Moderna vaccine," Ferrer said.
Full Statement From Ralphs Spokesman John Votava To NBC4:
We have been asked by local public health departments to restrict our already very limited supply of doses and will be following up with anyone who received their first COVID-19 vaccination at Ralphs, but has not yet scheduled their second dose. Since we started offering vaccinations, we have been asking customers to not call store pharmacies, but rather to book their appointment online. We have also posted signage in our stores informing customers they can call 866-211-5320 with any questions. After a customer has received their first dose, during the observation period (15-30 minutes following the vaccine) customers should work with their pharmacist to schedule a second vaccine shot or to schedule online. We will honor appointments that have been scheduled through the end of January and will no longer cancel appointments.
Regarding the vaccine clinics – any customer that previously had an appointment scheduled between January 14-20 will receive notification this Thursday, January 28 as to where and when the vaccine clinics will take place with special instructions for booking their appointment. We are not able to accept walk-ins. Appointments are determined by vaccine availability.