One hundred million shots in the first 100 days. This is what we hear repeated by President Joe Biden as part of his COVID-19 relief strategy. However, vaccine rollout across the country is still facing difficulties.
The situation is even worse when we take into account Los Angeles County and California. California currently rates 46th out of all 50 states, plus D.C. and Puerto Rico, in terms of vaccination distribution efforts.
Vaccination efforts in Los Angeles county are being carried out as the county surpasses 1 million cases and over 15,000 deaths cumulative.
Public health officials in the county are optimistic things will turn around soon, but the reality remains grim for now. Mayor Eric Garcetti says that in order for vaccinations to finish up within the year, the county needs to receive 500,000 doses every week. Currently, L.A. County receives around 160,000 vaccine doses a week.
Despite shortages, and the previous administration leaving no plan for President Biden on how to distribute vaccines to Americans according to Chief of Staff Ron Klain, states and cities across the country are preparing for more aggressive plans to distribute as many vaccines as possible.
L.A. County in particular has sped up its plans tenfold over the past week. On Jan. 21, all seniors age 65 and older were made eligible for vaccination. On top of this, L.A. county will open up five locations for mass vaccination distribution, each with the capacity to vaccinate 4,000 people per day.
Long Beach has sped up its vaccination process by allowing police officers, grocery store workers and educators to get vaccinated starting this week as well.
On top of producing and ordering more vaccines, it will be the job of elected officials to launch educational campaigns the next few months to boost confidence and trust in the vaccine among the general population.
“It is something very new, and it can be a little bit scary. But as someone who has worked in scientific research, I read a lot of the studies before I got the vaccine and I know a big concern is that the studies were rushed or that they cut corners. And something that I've reassured a lot of people is that the reason why a lot of studies take so long to get approved is because when it comes to the FDA, there's a lot of red tape," said Madison Davis, senior biology and psychology double major.
Operation Warp Speed has put out a detailed plan explaining how it has approved and distributed the vaccine at historically fast rates.
"So because the vaccine was so important to get out quickly, instead of waiting for 15 other studies to get approved they just got looked at first," she said. Davis received the first dose of the vaccine on Jan. 2.
“No scientific corners were cut in the way that some people are imagining it. Something that's really important to remember is like, well, first of all, we have 30 years of experience on mRNA vaccines. So the vaccine type itself is very well understood," said Davis.
Davis does acknowledge people’s personal reservations on the vaccines and stresses the importance of public officials to gain trust by targeting how each and every community in the United States has been affected by the pandemic differently.
A month ago, right at the start of vaccine distribution, Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke on NPR’s Morning Edition and said that the United States can begin returning back to normal with the goal of 75-85 percent of the population vaccinated to reach critical herd immunity. As the vaccine begins to open up to the general public around spring of this year, contentious debates will be held about how to go about vaccinating such an enormous quantity of people.
“I think that vaccinations should not be required. However, if you choose not to be vaccinated, there are consequences involved in that...If you want to travel, maybe vaccination should be a predicate of that...if you're not vaccinated, then maybe international travel isn't an option,” said Claire Kosewic, a junior biology major.
As an individual with a California EMT license, Kosewic has been using her experience to not only disseminate information on the vaccine and on COVID-19, but also to assist at the testing site on campus.
Due to her job, she was eligible to receive her first shot of the vaccine last week. She said the process was super quick and all it took was signing a form online, uploading her driver's license as ID and showing up to the site the next day. She said it was finished within five minutes.
Similarly, Davis, who works as a registered EMT as well, reported very efficient processes at the Crenshaw Clinic.
“I signed up online, it was really easy," said Davis. "I felt very safe...the signup process was really efficient. They definitely didn't cut any corners. It was very well regulated.”
Following Davis’ experience, Gracie Bruess, a junior biology and Spanish double major, was inspired to book an appointment at the same clinic and reported similar positive experiences.
“Once I got to the front of the first checkpoint, once they checked my ID, I probably had the shot in less than five minutes. And then once you get it, they direct you to like a little sitting area, you have to sit there for 15 minutes so they can monitor if you don't have a bad reaction. And then once you do that you walk out you get your vaccine card and you're on your way," said Bruess.
Davis, Kosewic and Bruess all reported nothing more than strong pain in their arms for around one to two days following their injections.
“It kind of feels like somebody punched you on the arm. But really like not that bad. I probably would have been worried if nothing had happened. If I hadn't felt anything, I might have been like, oh gosh like what if it didn't actually happen,” said Kosewic.
As California gears up to distribute the vaccine to the Phase 1B vaccination group, including people aged 65 and over, educators and grocery workers, into February and as Gov. Gavin Newsom eases up the statewide stay at home order it remains to be seen how successful public officials will be in delivering the highly demanded vaccines and turning back to normal all within the year.