Soon after Los Angeles County officials announced Tuesday that, by the afternoon, residents age 65 and older could register for the COVID-19 vaccine, the signup website crashed, with thousands of inquiries pending.
Those in the 65-and-up age group can now visit vaccinatelacounty.com to register, and those without internet access can sign up via a call center at 833-540-0473 between 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., seven days a week, according to Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.
While thousands were able to sign up, many residents who called or used the site reportedly fell short of booking an appointment due to technical errors, according to a social media posting from health officials.
By Tuesday night, the county announced that there were no more appointment slots available at county sites after an hourslong crash on the signup website, which is linked to the state’s system, officials said.
“While we are continuing to work with our state partners to improve the functionality of the website, we ask for the public’s patience as we build capacity and supply,” read the county statement, adding that residents should continue to check the website for updates on availability.
Vaccinations are expected to take place across all county sites and through the county’s partners for the estimated 1.3 million older adults, she added. In the Santa Clarita Valley, locations included Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital; Six Flags Magic Mountain; three Ralphs pharmacies in Castaic, Stevenson Ranch and Valencia; and Sav-On Pharmacy on Copper Hill Drive, according to the county’s vaccine site.
The county now joins more than 30 others in California that have already started vaccinating older adults, but county Public Health officials urged for patience as there is a limited vaccine supply.
“We don’t have enough doses at hand right now,” said Ferrer. Public Health estimates to have an estimated 50,000 appointments available for both health care workers and those 65 and up for the rest of the week. After that, “We’ll have to wait and see what’s available for next week,” said Ferrer.
“One of the issues that everyone has had around the allocation and distribution from the federal government is it has been week to week, which makes it difficult for our sites to do a lot of planning, and it really makes it difficult to extend appointments past a few days,” added Ferrer.
The pace of vaccinations is “entirely dependent” on what the county receives from the federal government, according to Public Health officials. Last week, Los Angeles received 685,000 doses and more than 70% had been administered. New doses of 168,000 were expected to arrive Wednesday and Thursday. Next week’s allocation, an amount which Ferrer said is not yet known, will need to cover the second dose for health care workers and those who are ready for their first dose.
Of the county’s 10 million population, more than 99,000 residents 65 and older have tested positive for COVID-19 and of that figure, 30,000 have been hospitalized and 9,800 have died, according to county data.
The move comes after county Board of Supervisors Chair Hilda Solis signed an executive order late Monday directing Public Health officials to open COVID-19 vaccinations appointments for people 65 and older. Monday’s announcement caused confusion among some residents regarding when and where they could start signing up.
County Supervisor Kathryn Barger’s office and the city of Santa Clarita had received a number of queries from residents about the matter, according to communications officials. Barger spokeswoman Michelle Vega said Tuesday she was unaware of why there was mixed messaging on the announcement.
County officials had previously said they would wait until all those in Phase 1A had received their vaccinations and estimated to begin the process of inoculating people 65 and up in February. Supervisors Barger and Janice Hahn said late Sunday night they were urging the county to expand COVID-19 vaccinations sooner.
“Efficient and effective distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine to our residents and communities is the most critical hurdle in our ability to recover from this virus,” Barger, whose 5th District includes the Santa Clarita Valley, said in a Sunday statement.
Solis said Tuesday there wasn’t a shift in the decision-making to now begin inoculating older adults, as officials had been contemplating the move “for the last couple of weeks.”
“With the governor’s pronouncement this past week, I think that really got us all together to focus on how we could expedite this,” said Solis.
Ferrer said the county is well on its way to completing health care worker vaccination and called adding vaccinations for residents 65 and older before completing all available appointments for health care workers “a strategy that’s sensible as we move forward.”