(TNS) - Apr. 1—A giant COVID-19 vaccination site at Cal State Los Angeles itself got an injection of new life on Thursday, April 1, after the city of L.A. stepped up to take it over from the federal government, officials said.
The site — which had been run by FEMA — had been set to close on April 11, but L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said the city will take over operation, which will transition on April 12, officials said.
"The mayor has taken the baton without hesitation to have seamless transition from the Cal State L.A. now to take over the site at a local level," said Gov. Gavin Newsom in a Thursday briefing at Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, where he received his own vaccine.
The vaccination site opened in February as an eight-week pilot project by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Governor's Office of Emergency Services. By the time that eight-week project ends on April 11, the site will have administered about 300,000 doses. A team of more than 200 soldiers, deployed from Fort Carson in Colorado, were deployed to Southern California to help establish and staff the complex.
But its pending closure presented a concern at a time when eligibility for shots is expanding — to everyone 50 and older on Thursday and to everyone 16 and up on April 15. The site's location in East Los Angeles also made it a convenient option for communities hard-hit by the pandemic. FEMA was also conducting mobile clinics in the community to accommodate people unable to make it to the site.
Under FEMA, vaccine allocations went directly from the federal government to the site, so with it now under city control allocations will be distributed through the state.
Those allocations remain relatively limited, far short of the more than 5 million doses a week the state is capable of administering.
Garcetti said, however, he would push for the inflow of federal doses to continue.
"I still continue to ask the federal government: give us those direct doses to the county and the city," Garcetti said. "We'll get the job done."
The city also runs several other sites, including the sprawling Dodger Stadium vaccination POD.
"So we will take over those operations," he said. "The city, we couldn't be more proud or more ready to get the job done. Together with the county we'll get the doses. Launched by FEMA and Cal OES as a pilot site, it will have administered 300,000 doses in just eight weeks. And now as they prepare to hand the keys over to us, we're getting ready to seize this opportunity to integrate the site into our larger citywide efforts and get more vaccines into arms."
On Tuesday, California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla sent a joint letter to acting FEMA Administrator Robert Fenton calling on the agency to work with local officials to ensure the site, and another similar operation in Oakland, "can continue to administer vaccinations and combat the COVID-19 pandemic."
"In particular, we ask that you provide the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services and the counties of Alameda and Los Angeles with financial and logistical support so they can take over operations, and that the federal government continues to send the sites direct shipments of vaccine doses," the letter said.
County Health Director Barbara Ferrer said earlier this week the county would work to either replace the site at the same location or open additional slots in nearby sites to make up for the estimated 6,000 doses per day being administered at CSULA. Garcetti confirmed last week that the city was also in negotiations.
Garcetti spoke at an event Thursday during which Gov. Newsom provided an update on the state's efforts to spread the vaccine at a swifter pace, at a local vaccination clinic at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza,
As part of the event, Newsom also got his own vaccine from California Health & Human Services Agency Secretary Mark Ghaly. Newsom asked the "celebrity vaccinator" if he had even done this before. Ghaly assured the governor he had experience.
Newsom's vaccine was a single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot, so the governor won't have to make a second appointment.
Johnson & Johnson announced Wednesday that workers at a plant in Baltimore manufacturing two coronavirus vaccines accidentally conflated the ingredients several weeks ago, contaminating up to 15 million doses of the vaccine and forcing regulators to delay authorization of the plant's production lines.
It's not clear what impact the accident will have on California's supplies.
The mix-up will delay future shipments of Johnson & Johnson doses in the United States while the Food and Drug Administration investigates what occurred. The error does not affect any Johnson & Johnson doses that are currently being delivered and used nationwide, including the shipments that states are counting on next week. All those doses were produced in the Netherlands, where operations have been fully approved by federal regulators.
Further shipments of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine — expected to total 24 million doses in the next month — were supposed to come from the giant plant in Baltimore. Those deliveries are now in question while the quality control issues are sorted out, according to people familiar with the matter.
The New York Times and City News Service contributed to this report
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