Convention center line

Hundreds of cars lined up outside the Long Beach Convention Center for the first day at the mass COVID-19 vaccine site in Long Beach on Tuesday, Jan. 19.

Long Beach continued expanding its ability to inoculate people from the coronavirus Tuesday, Jan. 19, when the Convention Center opened as a mass vaccination site, with officials expecting to give out more than 1,500 doses on the first day — and eventually 3,000 daily.

The Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center is the city’s largest vaccination site. It opened on the same day as five other massive vaccination centers launched elsewhere in Los Angeles County, as public health officials around the region push to inoculate as many people as quickly as possible, despite inconsistent supplies.

Despite those inconsistencies, Long Beach officials seem pleased with how their rollout is going. The city had administered more than 15,000 doses as of last week, Mayor Robert Garcia said Tuesday.

“It may be where we to get to the point where we run out of vaccine because we’re going so fast,” Garcia said. “Running out of vaccine tells me that we’re doing our job.

“Our approach is we’re being less cautious about setting aside a certain amount of vaccines every day for the next three or four weeks versus getting it out the door,” he added. “Every vaccine we put out there is saving a life.”

Long Beach, it seems, is ready to push its distribution efforts beyond the city’s borders.

The city’s health department, Garcia said, has asked to partner with the Los Angeles County Health Department to absorb neighboring cities, including Signal Hill, Paramount and Lakewood, to handle vaccination distribution for those cities.

“We have the organization structure to get that done,” Garcia said. “We just need the okay from LA County and the additional vaccines from them and we’ll roll them right into the program.”

“What we are trying to do,” Garcia said, “is get vaccines out as soon as possible.”

And there are still a lot of people left to vaccinate.

The Convention Center, like most of the city’s other sites, is currently distributing shots only to people 65 years of age and older, essential health care workers and food industry workers. (The Long Beach Health Department site currently only offers shots to seniors on Saturdays.) Shots are administered, by appointment only, in drive-thru kiosks in the parking garage or through walk-ups at the center’s Terrace Theater from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Despite the required appointments, however, folks shouldn’t expect a quick trip for their shots.

“On your appointment day please be prepared to spend some time waiting in line,” City Health Officer Dr. Anissa Davis said. “Lines have been over an hour.

“Get plenty of rest the night before,” she added, “and remember to hydrate.”

Vaccinating educators, meanwhile, is expected to begin next week, Garcia said, starting with the Long Beach Unified School District; Long Beach City College will follow soon after.

“It will be the first major school district to begin mass vaccinations in the state,” Garcia said.

The Convention Center site will remain open for a while, as the city moves into its next phase in March, which includes people 16 to 64 years of age with underlying medical conditions, and workers in the transportation and logistics industries, critical manufacturing and other sectors.

Tuesday also marked the launch of the city’s new online portal, VaxLB, where residents can register to receive notifications for when it’s their turn to receive the shot and for regular updates of the vaccine distribution.

Second District Councilwoman Cindy Allen noted on Tuesday that getting folks inoculated was the first step to eventually reopening businesses and regaining a sense of normal life.

“Before we begin the recovery process, we have to get people vaccinated,” Allen said. “I’ve been vaccinated. It's safe, and I encourage everyone to get vaccinated.”

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