City to partner with LBUSD to bring COVID-19 vaccine clinics to school campuses

With nearly 60% of the city’s eligible residents receiving at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, Long Beach officials are preparing for a slowdown in the coming months and are rethinking how the vaccines will be administered in the future.

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said during a Wednesday afternoon press conference that the city will  soon begin to partner with the Long Beach Unified School District to place mobile clinics on school campuses.

Garcia said the clinics could allow parents dropping off their children for school to also get vaccinated. The sites could also offer vaccines to eligible LBUSD high school students who want the vaccine. The vaccine is currently limited to people 16 and up.

However, a number of clinical trials are underway that could expand eligibility to younger children and Garcia said these school sites could help vaccinate those populations if the vaccine is found to be safe to give to younger children.

“We want to make sure that we’re prepared for parents who want to have their kids vaccinated, that they have that option in their schools,” Garcia said.

While the city has administered over 207,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines there has been a drop in demand in recent weeks. The city has already announced the deployment of mobile vaccine clinics to hard-hit areas where infection rates have remained stubbornly high throughout the pandemic.

The city also announced Wednesday that it was doubling the hours of operation for walk-up and drive-up vaccinations at the Long Beach Convention Center for people without an appointment. The site will now operate from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays.

City vaccine data shows about 56% of eligible Long Beach residents have received at least one dose with 114,434 having received their first dose. Roughly 38% of the state is fully vaccinated, according to statewide data.

It’s unclear how much of Long Beach is fully vaccinated because the city may be counting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as a first dose even though that brand only requires one shot to fully vaccinate a person.

Dr. Anissa Davis, the city’s health officer, said Wednesday that it was likely it was counted as a first dose. Davis also said that the city is resuming use of the J&J shots at city facilities May 1 after a roughly two-week pause because of rare blood clots being linked to its use.

Even with a projected slowdown, Long Beach is expected to open with the rest of California on June 15, the date that Gov. Gavin Newsom identified earlier this month as when the state’s economy would fully reopen with some restrictions still in place.

If the city will reach herd immunity by that point, a fluctuating goal for vaccinations that some health experts have put as high as 80%, is unclear, but Davis said that every vaccination helps and the city wants as many people as possible to get one.

“Every person who is vaccinated is another person who is both not at high risk to be exposed or high risk to transmit the virus,” Davis said. “So we’ll be working really really diligently to make sure that everyone is able to be vaccinated, and then as we hit June 15 we’ll continue that campaign to make sure that we capture everyone.”

Davis also announced Wednesday that the city would be aligning its masking policy with the recently updated CDC guidelines that said fully vaccinated persons don’t need to wear a mask outside when not in a group or when around small groups of other fully vaccinated people that they know.

“It would be difficult in public settings to know if others around you have been vaccinated or if others around you are at increased risk for severe illness due to COVID-19,” Davis said. “That’s why it’s important that everyone should continue to wear a well-fitted face covering and take precautions in public indoor settings and in crowded outdoor settings and venues where wearing a face covering is required.”

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.