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There is no question that Long Beach has had one of the most successful vaccine rollout efforts in California. In fact, we’ve been hailed as a statewide model by the Governor and health leaders from across the country.

By the time you read this, approximately half of the adult residents in Long Beach will have been vaccinated. And that includes nearly 90% of our senior community. We are vaccinating about 1% of our population each day, and expect that everyone who wants a vaccine will have it before summer begins.

Last week, we began offering walk-up vaccinations to any resident 16 years or older and were one of the first jurisdictions in California to do so. As our economy slowly begins to open, the vaccination of so many will help slow community spread and move us closer to herd immunity.

Looking back, we were also one of the first to distribute vaccines to everyone 50 years and up — and I am so proud we took this step. We know age is one of the primary factors for COVID-19 mortality and so getting the vaccine out to our older adults was a key priority. Our success on this front has reduced the burden on healthcare facilities — and has had the added benefit of making limited family gatherings, which we’ve all missed so much, a safer prospect.

I’m also proud that we were one of the first jurisdictions in the state to start vaccinating people with disabilities and with underlying health conditions.

Long Beach was the first large school district in California to allow in-person teaching again, and we did it safely. We started vaccinating educators nearly as soon as the state would allow, and because of our ability to partner with our team at LBUSD, we were able to avoid many of the issues school districts faced in other parts of the state. Seeing our students return to some level of in-person instruction was an absolute highlight.

To date, we’ve distributed about 150,000 first doses and almost 100,000 second doses of a COVID-19 vaccine to people in our city. All of this is thanks to the incredible efforts of our health team, as well as the hundreds of volunteers who have given their time and expertise to get our community vaccinated. Setting up our Convention Center, creating an appointment system, recruiting volunteers, and managing the distribution of thousands of doses of vaccine each day has been a monumental endeavor. There really is no precedent for it in our city’s history. We had to build it from scratch, and we had to move fast.

The rapid mobilization since December and the continued expansion of availability of the COVID-19 vaccine are things everyone in Long Beach can be proud of. It is a testament to the skill of the people on our city team.

We have come such a long way in our vaccine efforts, and I want to encourage everyone to get vaccinated if you haven’t already. After so many weeks of vaccination around the country, we are moving closer and closer to a full reopening of the economy, but we must all continue to be smart and stay vigilant.

Once we get everyone who wants a vaccine inoculated, our focus will be 100% on making sure our community builds back stronger than ever. I am looking forward to strengthening our businesses, our organizations and our support for one another as a community. Please continue to stay safe, be cautious and responsible, and let’s keep moving forward.

Robert Garcia has been Long Beach's mayor since 2014. His mother and step-father died of COVID-19 complications last year.

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