It's opening day at Dodger Stadium, where vaccinations began Friday as Los Angeles opens a new front in the battle against the coronavirus.
The mass vaccination center is expected to have the capacity to vaccinate 12,000 people a day when it is fully operational, Mayor Eric Garcetti said. The site “will be one of the biggest in the country, if not the biggest in the country,” he added.
Cars were lined up early Friday on the road leading to the vaccination site. It's the same location that served as a sprawling testing site.
“This is a site as we've seen at Dodger Stadium that can get people through safely, conveniently and most importantly, rapidly,” he said.
But under current vaccination protocols set by the county, the only people eligible to receive vaccines are health care workers and residents and staffers at skilled nursing and long-term care facilities. The Los Angeles County Department Public Health has not yet expanded vaccine availability to lower-tier priority groups, even though the state has authorized vaccines for people aged 65 and older.
County officials said the county still needs to vaccinate another 500,000 health care workers, and it does not have adequate supplies of vaccine to expand access.
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Garcetti and health officials have lamented the lack of vaccine availability. The mayor and other big-city mayor across the country sent a letter to President-elect Joe Biden Wednesday asking that cities be given vaccine allocations directly instead of funneling them through the state.
But Garcetti said uncertainty about when vaccine doses will become available won't stop the city from moving ahead with opening the Dodger Stadium site.
“When it's fully up and running we will see as many as 12,000 people, possibly more, come through there and receive their dose -- their first dose and of course then later their second dose of the vaccination,” he said.
“And we're deploying a whole workforce to administer shots, and doing it all without this clear sense of when vaccines will arrive from the federal government. But we have to take that risk. We have to get it out quick and assume that the next vaccine will be there. America deserves that. Los Angeles deserves nothing less.”
Dodger Stadium was previously being used as a mass testing site, but it halted operations Monday so it could be reconfigured for vaccinations. The city also closed a testing site at the Veterans Affairs Lot 15 at Jackie Robinson Stadium in Brentwood.
The move decreased the city's testing capacity from more than 40,000 to about 27,000 tests per day, according to Garcetti, but he said testing appointments remain available to those who want them. He noted that the city has been seeing a drop in testing demand every day. He also said the city is adding more mobile testing and looking into providing hybrid sites that offer both tests and vaccines.
Garcetti called the challenge of getting every American the required two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine “the largest logistical undertaking that I've ever seen in my lifetime as an American.”
“I spoke today with President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, and members of the administration who are focused on the goals of the next 100 days. And I stand ready to help them meet their goals of vaccinating 100 million people in the next 100 days,” Garcetti said. “Los Angeles will help get that job done.”
Los Angeles County plans to open five additional mass-vaccination centers next week.