An assistant professor at USC School of Pharmacy administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a health care worker at Dodger Stadium. (Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)
Culver City High School

The state of COVID-19 vaccines in California

In a December 8 news conference last year, then president-elect Joe Biden announced the administration’s now recognized goal of administering 100 million vaccines across the US in its first 100 days in office. While vaccine rollout seemed lackluster in the early weeks of this new year, the US now seems more than likely to exceed the Biden administration’s goal.

Currently, the FDA has authorized three vaccines nationwide for emergency use: the double dose Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, and the recently approved Johnson and Johnson’s single-shot Janssen COVID-19 vaccine.

While each of these vaccines as well as others poses their own differences such as the genetic code used, efficacy and side effects, the objective of them remains the same — drastically reduce COVID-19 transmission rate to potentially end the pandemic as ethically and efficiently as possible. 

As these vaccines continue to be produced and allocated across the country, each state has begun to enforce its own COVID-19 distribution plan. In California, vaccine distribution is divided into phases, prioritizing those most susceptible to the virus. 

According to ABC7, the current phases currently underway are Phases 1A and 1B, with the former phase including health care personnel as well as workers and residents at nursing facilities and long-term.

Phase 1B prioritizes people of ages 65 and older, workers in education and childcare such as teachers, emergency service workers and those in food and agriculture, which includes farmers and grocery employees. 

The next group of vaccine rollouts is Phase 1C, which is estimated to begin around March 15. This phase includes people aged 16 through 64 with underlying health conditions or disabilities.

After Phase 1 is completed, the second phase is expected to be an age-based system that will eventually open up to the general public in the coming months, although major details and dates are still to be determined. 

As of March 5, 13,345,790 vaccine doses were shipped to California with 10,213,706 or 76.5% of those actually administered to people, as reported by ABC7.

However, the state has continued to lag behind in the vaccination process, particularly in the first few weeks of the rollout of doses. Public health experts point towards already overwhelmed public health care systems from COVID-19, the challenges in an unprecedented vaccine rollout with California’s large size and population and the lack of federal leadership as the factors for the vaccination delay, according to Cal Matters

Once local counties begin adjusting to the vaccine distribution and administration process over time, the system is expected to ramp up with more vaccine doses being put in people’s arms.

According to the LA Times, California administered an average of 207,458 vaccines each day in the last week of February, a substantial increase from the 7-day average of approximately 50,000 doses in the first week of January. 

Vaccinations must continue to increase in order for the US to reach herd immunity against COVID-19, however. To reach this target, an estimated 70%-85% of the American population would need to be vaccinated, as stated by top medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Californians who are eligible and wish to currently receive the vaccine must do so by signing up through the state’s MyTurn pilot site at or through the public health website of their individual county. For local residents in LA county, they can visit the county’s website to sign up for vaccine appointments. 

Although people can receive the vaccine at local hospitals, pharmacies, and health centers, mass vaccination sites across California and Los Angeles have opened up in recent weeks as part of the efforts to speed up the administration process.

Currently, unused sports stadiums turned into vaccine centers such as Dodgers Stadium, the San Francisco 49ers’ Levi Stadium and the Los Angeles Rams’ and Chargers’ Sofi Stadium, are a few of the many large vaccination locations across the state. 

There is no doubt that the pandemic has been grim over the past year as March 13 approaches once again; the date that former president Donald Trump declared a state of emergency for COVID-19 and the final day that in-person learning was conducted in 2020 for many school districts across California, including LAUSD.

However, with the vaccination system that has taken charge across California and the sharp drop of COVID-19 cases and deaths statewide, it certainly seems as if there is light at the end of a very dark tunnel.