In an update to California’s vaccine allocation plan, the Los Angeles Times reports that the state will begin to set aside 40 percent of available COVID-19 vaccine doses for individuals who live in the highest-risk communities. The decision comes after data revealed that large portions of the population in the region’s affluent, largely white neighborhoods have already been vaccinated, while lower-income, Black, and Latino residents are being left behind.
Already, more than 28 percent of residents in Brentwood report they have been vaccinated. In South L.A., that number plunges to less than 7 percent.
Some of the disparity may be linked to the online appointment system itself. Any online booking system structurally favors those with greater access to technology, and L.A. County public health officials have bemoaned that the state-established MyTurn site, in particular, is something of a free-for-all. The technology currently offers no way to control that, for example, appointments at a South L.A. community clinic prioritize South L.A. residents, or that a particular mega POD be dedicated to processing only essential workers.
“If we aren’t able to reserve vaccination options for our patients, we are very concerned that they’ll be pushed out by those with more free time, more resources, the ability to sit in front of their computer all day, and the ability to drive anywhere in the county for a vaccine,” Dr. Christina Ghaly, director of L.A. County health services, told the Times.
Under the modified system, more doses will be pushed to the areas of the state that fall in the bottom quarter of the California Healthy Places Index, a metric that incorporates a variety of factors, including local average income, housing statistics, and transportation and education data.
Of the 400 ZIP codes statewide that qualify, many are concentrated in Southern California, as well as the Central Valley. Among them are areas of South L.A., the Eastside, Koreatown, the eastern San Fernando Valley, Compton, Chinatown, Santa Ana, and areas along the I-10 corridor through the Inland Empire.
Newsom administration officials told the Times they plan to see around 400,000 doses administered in those qualifying ZIP codes over the next two weeks. As doses are administered to targeted residents, the state will begin to adjust the calculations that go into a county’s reopening tier.
Tethering delivering vaccine to high-risk areas to reopening guidelines is based on an understanding that many of the essential workers who power the restaurants, retail, and other commercial enterprises throughout the county are often residentially concentrated in these communities. Inoculating the highest-exposure individuals not only keeps them and their immediate contacts safer, it also helps keep the entire community safe by limiting possible spread.