LA mayor says vaccines by ZIP code would have saved lives

·2 min read

SAN FRANCISCO — Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said many deaths could have been prevented if the state focused earlier on vaccinating those in the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods , tacit criticism of Gov. Gavin Newsom's decision to initially focus inoculation efforts by age and profession.

Garcetti also said he's eager for the day when the state and federal governments take “the handcuffs off us completely" and allow local officials to vaccinate those who they feel are most at risk.

“From a public health perspective, we should have gone in with surge teams to ZIP codes that were hardest hit (by the coronavirus) and just say, ‘Anybody in this ZIP code gets a vaccine,’” Garcetti said during an online interview with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “And we could of — I think — really prevented a lot of deaths.”

Garcetti and Newsom are fellow Democrats and close friends. And while the mayor didn’t name Newsom, his comments ultimately are criticism of the governor’s approach, which were modified earlier this month when he announced 40% of all vaccine doses will go to people in the state’s poorest ZIP codes.

California leads the nation in the number of COVID cases and deaths, with the poor, as well as African Americans and Latinos, accounting for a disproportionately high number

When vaccines first became available in limited form in December, California followed federal recommendations and allowed vaccinations only for health care workers and the elderly and others in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

Since then, Newsom has opened up eligibility all people 65 and older as well as teachers, child care workers, farm and food workers, and emergency personnel. This week he added people with certain disabilities and underlying health conditions.

Newsom came under harsh criticism from many local officials last month when he announced his plan to centralize vaccinations under a state system run by insurer Blue Shield. The local officials felt they were being undercut, but more are coming on board now.

The state public health department announced Friday that the state's two largest counties, Los Angeles and San Diego, have signed on to the plan. The governor's office had initially planned for counties to sign contracts with Blue Shield but they now are signing memorandums of understanding with the state.

Janie Har And Michael R. Blood, The Associated Press