Just over 60% of Burbank’s residents had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccination as of this week, but county data shows a recent drop in the number of daily shots being administered.
At least 54,100 residents, or 60.4% of the local population 16 years old or older, have had at least one coronavirus vaccine dose as of Sunday, according to data from the Los Angeles County Public Health Department. That total includes the roughly 12,600 first doses administered to the city’s population ages 65 and older — 77.7% of that age group.
But in recent weeks, Burbank has reflected a trend reported across the county and the nation: a significant drop in daily vaccinations. The average number of daily vaccinations for Burbank residents peaked at nearly 900 first shots a day at the beginning of April. By April 24, the daily average had dropped to half that number.
Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in L.A. County, which recently entered the least restrictive tier of the state’s reopening system, have plummeted as total vaccinations have increased. But health officials are concerned that the number of shots has stalled in recent weeks, leaving much of the population vulnerable to the disease.
Across the county, according to Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer, the average number of doses administered fell from nearly 87,400 per day from April 17 to April 23, to about 63,700 during the week of April 24 to April 30. It was a decrease of about 23.6%.
“This is not because we didn’t have supply,” Ferrer said during a press briefing this week. “Our efforts now need to remain focused on making it as easy as possible for everybody 16 and older to get their vaccine.”
ACCESS, HESITANCY POTENTIAL FACTORS
Eric Baumgardner, Burbank’s emergency management coordinator, said he believes the county’s vaccine situation has flipped from what it was at the start of the year, when only some groups could receive a shot.
“At the beginning, vaccines were at high demand and short availability,” he said. “And I think the pendulum has just shifted.”
Contributing to that lower level of demand is a number of potential factors, according to Shira Shafir, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health sciences at UCLA.
For instance, some people may still be unsure where to go to be vaccinated. And workers who don’t have paid time off might not be able to miss work to visit a vaccination site or suffer the potential side effects. Thirdly, Shafir said there remains a fair amount of people who are hesitant to be vaccinated or have decided they don’t want to get the shot.
“I don’t think there’s any one issue that explains it,” Shafir said.
While achieving “herd immunity” — when enough of the population is resistant to the coronavirus through vaccination or prior infection to inhibit its spread — was a longterm goal for much of the pandemic, Shafir said she has some doubts about whether that can be achieved, noting that those under 16 years old — roughly 20% of the county population — currently aren’t eligible to be vaccinated.
But Shafir also warned against thinking about herd immunity as a “light switch.” The idea is more about reducing the probability that someone who can spread the disease will come into contact with someone who is susceptible to infection. And because cities aren’t isolated, that probability doesn’t just depend on one area’s population.
“For example, even if Burbank hits 85% [vaccinated] and Glendale, not to disparage Glendale at all, … is at 50%, and people are living and working and moving and grocery shopping between the two places, there is still going to be continued transmission,” Shafir said.
OFFICIALS PLEDGE TO BOLSTER EFFORTS
The country’s vaccination efforts may be bolstered as soon as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorizes Pfizer’s administration of its COVID-19 vaccine to children between 12 and 15. President Joe Biden said that the country will “immediately move to make about 20,000 pharmacy sites across the country ready to vaccinate those adolescents.”
Additionally, Pfizer recently indicated it will seek full FDA approval, potentially putting at ease those who were reluctant to be vaccinated out of suspicion of the emergency approval process.
County and federal officials have taken steps to get more shots into arms. Sites throughout L.A. County have offered vaccinations to people who did not book an appointment, and mobile vaccination sites have been sent to some communities.
Biden also announced a new goal this week to administer at least one dose of the vaccine to 70% of adults by July 4, which is about 100 million shots over the next two months.
“We need you to bring it home,” he said. “Get vaccinated. In two months, let’s celebrate our independence as a nation and our independence from this virus. We can do this. We will do this.”
— Oscar Areliz contributed to this report.