LA mayor says vaccines by ZIP code would have saved lives

By | March 20, 2021

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said “a lot of deaths” could have been prevented if the state had focused earlier on vaccinating those in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods

SAN FRANCISCO — Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said many deaths could have been prevented if the state focused earlier on vaccinating those in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods, a tacit criticism of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to initially focus inoculation efforts by age and profession.

Garcetti also said he’s eager for the day when the state and federal governments take “the handcuffs off us completely” and allow local officials to vaccinate those who they feel are most at risk.

Garcetti and Newsom are fellow Democrats and close friends. And while the mayor didn’t name Newsom, his comments ultimately are criticism of the governor’s approach, which were modified earlier this month when he announced 40% of all vaccine doses will go to people in the state’s most disadvantaged ZIP codes.

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Newsom’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Newsom came under harsh criticism from local officials when he announced in late January his plan to centralize vaccinations under a state system run by insurer Blue Shield. County officials felt they were being undercut, but more of them are coming on board now.

California leads the nation in the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths, with the poor, as well as African Americans and Latinos, accounting for a disproportionately high number.

Since then, Newsom has opened up eligibility to all people 65 and older as well as teachers, child care workers, farm and food workers, and emergency personnel. This week he added people with certain disabilities and underlying health conditions. On Friday, the governor said he expects to make everyone eligible for the vaccine by May 1 with supply ramping up.

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“L.A. city is bigger than 23 states. L.A. county is bigger than 45 states. But yet we still have to go through three layers of bureaucracy before we get our vaccines. That seems kind of silly at this time,” Garcetti said.

Paul Markovich, president and CEO of Blue Shield of California, said Friday that 38 of 61 local health jurisdictions have switched to the state’s online appointment portal called My Turn. All but two are on track to do so.

“We feel like we’re getting making really good progress. We’re on track in terms of implementing this transition by the end of the month,” he said.

The largest county in the San Francisco Bay Area had refused to participate, saying it is doing a good job of dispensing vaccines to local clinics and targeting underserved communities. Santa Clara County Executive Dr. Jeff Smith said Friday that a memorandum of understanding that allows counties to reallocate or redistribute doses with state permission sounds promising.

“We still have major concerns about the MOU and the state system,” he said. “The frustration we all have is that there’s not enough inventory, but adding more bureaucracy to it doesn’t seem to be the best idea to me.”


Associated Press reporter Kathleen Ronayne in Sacramento contributed to this story.

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