For months, they waited for the COVID-19 vaccine. Thursday, their turn finally arrived.
The Cal State Los Angeles mass vaccination site opened to all Los Angeles County adults – a first for the region – and the lines quickly filled with teenage students and young professionals. Some came with their dogs, others rode on skateboards or bikes. Many were with their relatives and friends, eager to finally break free from the pandemic.
“I would love to see my grandmother,” said Aidan Weber, 18, who took the bus from Los Feliz. He also had big plans for a Dungeons and Dragons night with friends. “We’re going to collect some crisps, some sodas. Finally, I can see my friends and family. “
Many of the people who filled out the Cal State LA site were not going to be eligible for a vaccine until April 15; but public health officials opened eligibility a week earlier because in recent days there were many more doses than patients.
Thousands of appointments were not booked by eligible people through the MyTurn registration system, according to officials. The site, where the Johnson & Johnson single dose vaccine was available, has the capacity to deliver approximately 7,000 doses per day.
The announcement on Thursday that any adult could get the vaccine between Thursday and Sunday sparked an immediate and overwhelming response. Appointments started to fill up quickly and by Thursday morning the site had so many visits that staff had to start firing some people, officials said.
On Thursday evening, state officials announced that the refusal policy would continue on Friday for adults who do not have an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine, although a few slots remain available for those eligible – those 50 years of age or over; those with underlying medical conditions; and people in certain essential jobs, such as health care, education, childcare, emergency services, and food and agriculture.
For the rest of Friday and throughout the weekend, “the only way to be sure of a vaccine is to make an appointment in advance,” said Brian Ferguson, spokesperson for the Office of Health Services. emergency from the governor of California, who manages the site. with the Federal Emergency Management Agency until Sunday evening. The management of the site will be entrusted to the city of Los Angeles on Monday morning.
Traffic was backed up for nearly a mile around Cal State LA late Thursday as motorists toured campus. The traffic congestion was so severe that at one point a freeway exit had to be closed.
Those who are lucky enough to arrive before 13h, when officials interrupted walk-in appointments, they were led to the shaded ground floor of a large parking lot, where they eagerly waited in rows of white folding chairs. They left with green bracelets on their wrists and smiles on their faces.
Mike Carson, 39, battled traffic for 2.5 hours to get from Long Beach to campus. He persisted, he said, because he didn’t want to catch “The Rona”.
“When they broke on the news yesterday that it was opening and that they had these spots free, I was like, I’m just going to go and try and do it early,” Carson said. His only plan after was to go to In-N-Out.
“It will be good to eventually feel safe to travel,” he added.
Skye Wingo, 27, and Toyoko Kumasaka, 26, looked gleeful as they stepped out of the parking lot. The friends went together at Wingo’s request.
“I just wanted to make sure I didn’t keep the problem going,” said Wingo, who works as an assistant writer.
He can’t wait to go out “dance to all these TikTok songs” and maybe take a road trip to Seattle, ”he said. “I think it’s about time, at least for my age group, that we felt comfortable exploring and weren’t afraid of hurting someone.
Jack Thomas Salcido, an 18-year-old who helped his grandmother get vaccinated earlier this year in a process that took almost three hours, has been impressed.
“It was really quick,” he said. “We were walking all the time, we only stood still for about five minutes.”
Despite expectations, many of those who got vaccinated Thursday at Cal State did not have big plans for immediately afterwards. In fact, most – including the younger ones – were just eager to spend time with more vulnerable family members.
“I have older parents and I wish I could see them again soon,” said Ethan Henes, a 21-year-old student at Occidental College, who came with a friend. “One of the main reasons I got the photo was that I wanted to feel more secure while traveling. Now that it’s happened, I guess I can start making plans.
Other counties in that state have also decided to act faster than the state recommended to allow all adults and some teens access to the vaccine, including Kern, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Orange County allows anyone 16 years of age and older living in four postal codes hit hard by the COVID-`19 pandemic – 92701 and 92703 in Santa Ana, 92805 in Anaheim, and 92844 in Garden Grove – to be vaccinated.
Long Beach announced Thursday that it will also begin immunizing all people 16 and older as part of walk-in visits to the Long Beach Convention Center, which operates Monday through Saturday.
Melissa Simock, 47, took to campus from West Hollywood with her two elderly pugs after seeing a friend’s Facebook post.
“I wanted to get rid of it. Plus, they do Johnson & Johnson, so it’s a one stop shop, ”she said.
Simmock says the process was “quick and easy, very organized,” which was especially enjoyable for his dogs, one of whom is disabled. “Where I go, they go,” she said.
Times writer Rong-Gong Lin II contributed to this report.