Last week, Mayor Eric Garcetti spent multiple days at the Dodger Stadium vaccine super-site, offering his help to health care workers administering doses. On the fifth day on site, the health professionals he was working alongside advised him to accept a dose himself.
“The medical personnel strongly recommended that he receive the vaccine, as they have recommended and provided for other field staff and volunteers at the site who have close contact with clients,” read a statement issued by the mayor’s office this week.
That announcement has sparked a wave of backlash for the mayor, who is 49, and isn’t part of the age group currently being prioritized for vaccination.
Lots of other big-city mayors and other prominent officials have received the COVID vaccine already. Long Beach mayor Robert Garcia, who is 43, posted a video of himself receiving a shot at one of his city’s pop-up distribution centers, showing his constituents how quick and safe the process can be. Kamala Harris, 56, got her second shot on Tuesday.
But unlike those leaders, Mayor Garcetti stated in December that he would not be accepting one of the still-limited doses of vaccine until other adults his age in the general public had the same opportunity.
“I’ll wait for my place when it would naturally come, and not go ahead of that,” the mayor said at a press briefing last month. “When they tell me I would normally get it, that’s when I’m going to get it.”
The optics of that switch have landed poorly with many in the city, who are frustrated about a vaccine rollout that has been characterized as inefficient, confusing, and falling short of equity goals–as well, perhaps, as a general sense of frustration with the mayor–and have seized on the flip-flop.
“The least essential 49-year-old in L.A. jumped the line after promising not to, one area resident tweeted. “Isn’t it interesting how Mayor Garcetti, a healthy, 49 year old, not health worker, was able to get the COVID-19 vaccine, but high risk individuals are no longer a priority?” asked another.
At a briefing on Thursday, Garcetti defended his choice to get vaccinated.
“Quite simply, it was strong medical advice from the people that were there, and what’s offered to everybody that’s working there,” the mayor said. “I think it’s really important when people do get that medical advice to say yes.”
He added that he hopes his getting the shot will act as another reminder that his constituents “should feel good about this vaccine being safe.”
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