For the first time, Los Angeles County officials on Wednesday announced a timeline for students under 18 to be vaccinated. Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said that, while all teachers and school staff in the region are currently eligible for shots, on May 1 all students ages 16 and over will become qualified. See second-to-last bullet point below from Ferrer’s presentation.
Covid-19 numbers have fallen drastically in the past month and, amid a push from California Governor Gavin Newsom, the state has reopened at a rapid pace. Movie theaters took the padlocks off their doors this week. Likewise indoor dining at restaurants is now permitted. Theme parks may reopen as of April 1, though Disneyland will wait until April 30. Unfortunately, amid that progress, Ferrer announced on Wednesday that the county had identified the second person under the age of 18 to succumb to Covid-19.
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The current LAUSD plan is for early education centers and elementary schools to reopen in
mid-April. Middle schools and high schools will start back up in late April. These dates
come with the caveat that they “may shift based on changes to levels of the virus in coming weeks,” according to the district. Students 16+ are just the latest group added to the list of those eligible or soon to be so.
Governor Gavin Newsom this week expanded vaccine eligibility to people ages 16-65 years old who have an underlying health condition. The group comprises 4.4 million Californians.
Ferrer said Wednesday that eligibility was also expanded to include custodial-janitorial workers, public transit workers and airport ground crew workers, along with social workers who handle cases of violence and abuse and foster parents providing emergency housing for young people.
That’s after roughly 1.7 million essential workers, including teachers, became eligible for vaccines last week. Health care workers and residents aged 65 and over were already eligible. Of that 65+ cohort in L.A., Ferrer estimates that only 61% have received a first dose.
The millions of newly vaccine-eligible Californians may find doses hard to find. L.A. County received its largest vaccine allocation to date last week, according to Ferrer. It administered 312,000 doses. But the region expects to administer only about 260k doses this week due to supply issues. That, just as millions more residents are eligible.
But by early April, officials expect a surge in doses as more J&J vaccine finally arrives.
Outbreaks at schools have been relatively infrequent in L.A. County. There have been 86 K-12 school affiliated outbreaks since Sept 1, 2020. Two of the outbreaks had more than 12 cases and 66 of the outbreaks had less than 6 cases. Outbreaks at schools increased during the surge and steadily declined starting in January, after school outbreaks peaked at 15 for 2 weeks in a row. Starting in early February, there have been no new outbreaks in schools.
While health officials in California’s largest county today announced the new eligibility for students 16+, the state’s “Updated Vaccination Guidelines,” which have not been updated in over a month, make no mention of high school-age vaccinations. Deadline is awaiting response to query sent to the California Department of Public Health on the subject.
Last week, Newsom and Ferrer each made reference to a Green Tier in the state’s color-coded reopening plan. Dubbed the Blueprint for a Safer Economy, the plan assesses the prevalence of Covid-19 in a region from “Widespread,” or Purple to “Minimal,” or Yellow. There are, as of yet, no details on what a Green Tier might look like, or whether it would include healthy teens.
But the CDC, which state and county health directors — including Ferrer, who referenced its guidelines in another context on Wednesday — generally follow, does offer indications for teens in its “Interim Recommendation” issued in January. It reads: “Phase 2 includes all other persons aged ≥16 years not already recommended for vaccination in Phases 1a, 1b, or 1c. Currently, in accordance with recommended age and conditions of use (1), any authorized COVID-19 vaccine may be used. ACIP is closely monitoring clinical trials in children and adolescents and will consider recommendations for use when a Covid-19 vaccine is authorized for use in persons aged <16 years.”