Los Angeles is taking its vaccination efforts on the road.
The city is gradually winding down its mass vaccination sites and will be fully mobile starting Aug. 1, marking what one deputy mayor called “the end of an era.”
“It’s a natural evolution,” said Jeffrey Gorell, the deputy mayor for public safety, who is overseeing vaccine efforts in the city. “Rather than having fixed sites where we ask community members to come to us, the natural progression is for us to move into more of a mobile approach where we can go to the populations where we need to be for areas with the lowest vaccination rates.”
With mobile sites, “we believe we can get to the most challenged areas,” he said.
Mobile vaccine units have been a part of the city’s vaccine program. But as the city’s 10 mass vaccination sites close over the coming weeks, the city will up its mobile units from 10 to 14. The city stopped offering vaccines at Dodgers Stadium on Thursday but other mass sites remain open.
Specially outfitted vans and trailers will give the city “tactical vaccination capabilities” so they can get into communities that may be underserved, hesitant or simply don’t have the time because of work requirements, Mr. Gorell said, adding that mobile teams will be able to extend evening and weekend hours. Community Organized Relief Effort (CORE), one of the city’s partners, will continue to operate the mobile program.
“Rather than hunker down at a fixed site waiting for them to come to us, we can be in their neighborhood and available,” Mr. Gorell said. “We’re going to be a truly mobile presence in the city.”
The mobile units will offer all three federally authorized vaccines — the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, and the single-shot Johnson & Johnson — and will be able to travel to multiple neighborhoods a day or stay for an entire week. Mr. Gorell said they also plan to target community events, grocery stores, street fairs and other highly trafficked areas. Appointments will not be necessary.
As of Thursday, 54 percent of California residents have received at least one shot and 40 percent are fully vaccinated according to a New York Times database. In Los Angeles County, 40 percent of eligible residents are fully vaccinated.
“With a growing number of residents getting inoculated, we are putting our resources where they will do the most good — delivering doses directly to undervaccinated communities, engaging and educating vulnerable populations, and eliminating barriers to this life-saving vaccine,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement.
Los Angeles joins a growing fleet of mobile Covid-19 vaccine clinics that are rolling up to neighborhoods in Delaware, Minnesota and Washington State to reach people who have been unable to travel to vaccination centers.
The city is working with community based organizations to help residents understand the science of the vaccine and access the mobile sites.
For Denise Villamil, the director of youth development services at Alma Family Services in East Los Angeles, outreach has been both personal and professional. Ms. Villamil lost her aunt to Covid-19 in December, just a month before vaccines started becoming available in the United States.
“Every person I can get through the line, every person I can get through the registration is one more person who is luckier than those who didn’t in the pandemic,” Ms. Villamil said. “Fear spreads, so does hope. So we’ve seen that in the communities and that’s been the beautiful part of this process. We’ve been able to give hope and see the ripple effect.”