Over the past 10 months, we have learned a lot about COVID-19, but one sad fact has been consistent since the first cases were reported last March: this virus, which is dangerous to people of all ages, too often proves fatal in older adults.
That’s why adults 65 and older are among the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, immediately following healthcare workers, paramedics/EMTs and a small group of government emergency responders.
As of Jan. 18, we have vaccinated more than 2,500 older adults, and another 5,500 will be vaccinated in the next two weeks. But older adults make up about 12.5% of Long Beach’s population — that’s nearly 60,000 people — so it’s going to take time to get to everyone.
We’ve opened a vaccine clinic at the Health Department exclusively for older adults, which runs Mondays through Saturdays. Older adults also will be able to be vaccinated at our mass vaccine clinics, which began Tuesday at the Long Beach Convention Center. These clinics are by appointment only.
The vaccine allocation is currently unpredictable. Toward the beginning of each week, we learn what the following week’s vaccine allocation will be for Long Beach. It changes every week and can be over 10,000 or as low as 1,000. We then schedule as many appointments as possible, depending on availability. We are facing unprecedented demand without enough supply to go around.
All vaccines are by appointment only. People can look for appointments at longbeach.gov/vaxlb or by contacting us at COVID19Vaccine@longbeach.gov or (562) 570-4636. We have received more than 15,000 emails and calls. This past weekend, we responded to more than 10,000 emails and returned 2,500 calls; please be patient and know that if you contact us, you will hear back, even if it takes a few days.
Once you receive a link to make an appointment, we ask that you do not share with your friends and family or post it on social media. This has led to people making appointments before we can serve them and then they are turned away at the test sites because they are not yet eligible. This can lead to unnecessary disappointment and frustration, and also takes an appointment time from those who are currently eligible.
I encourage every older adult to take the vaccine when it is available to them. Studies have shown that older adults who are focused on taking care of their health are more optimistic about aging. COVID-19 vaccines give us all hope to be optimistic about the days ahead, but only if enough people get the vaccine to create a network of protection.
If fighting COVID-19 is a marathon, we are hopeful that these are the last miles. If you’ve ever run a marathon, you know that the last miles can be the toughest. But now is the time to dig deep: keep wearing your face coverings; call or video chat often with family and friends instead of gathering in person; and get vaccinated when it’s your turn.
I’ve been proud of our vaccine team as they work seven days a week, putting in long hours to respond to inquiries about the vaccine and make appointments for folks. It warms my heart to see the dozens of medical professionals who have joined the Medical Reserve Corps here in Long Beach — chances are high that, when you are vaccinated, it will be by a nurse or doctor who is volunteering time on their days off to help us beat this pandemic.
We will continue to work tirelessly to answer your questions and make appointments for everyone as vaccine becomes available, and the Health Department will continue to hold clinics until every person who wants a vaccine receives one. We are committed to doing this and doing it right.
Kelly Colopy is Director of Health and Human Services for the city of Long Beach.