You may have already heard the news that Los Angeles will transition the Dodger Stadium testing supersite into “a mass vaccination center” by week’s end. This move is occurring as the COVID-19 vaccine rollout has failed by all measures.
Although an attractive option to transform a testing center into a vaccine center, this move is misguided and is emblematic of a panicked decision made by an overloaded Public Health Department. In doing so, Los Angeles is hoping to shift resources from one priority to the next.
The problem is, however, that Los Angeles has missed the point that there are now two concurrent and equality pressing priorities which need to be addressed simultaneously. This is illustrated by the fact that we are now back near the highest case rates ever (Figure 1) at 130.5 new daily cases per 100,000 population (previous high: 135.9).
Testing rates are down 30% from their 12/22/2020 peak (Figure 2) and removing the largest coronavirus testing site in the nation will only serve as a further bottleneck.
I agree that testing sites are a natural venue for vaccination – but these efforts need to be concurrent, not mutually exclusive. Dodger Stadium has multiple entrances and is perfect to run two efforts. But the problem? Too few resources.
For some reason, Los Angeles and the Health Department have insisted upon taking over the entire community vaccination effort themselves. There is no reasonable historical expectation that they should be able to manage this effort. Health Departments only provide 1% of the annual influenza vaccinations so to task them to suddenly provide vaccines to all except those on staff at hospitals is far outside of their scope of expertise or capability.
But at the end of the day, the fact that Los Angeles cannot get out of its own way on this issue is costing lives. The most recent mortality rate is now 1.34 daily deaths per 100,000 population which is the highest it has been since the start of the pandemic. This rate has increased every single week since 11/10/2020.
At this point we need the County, the City and the Public Health Department to do everything well. Sacrificing testing for vaccination is the epidemiologic equivalent of robbing Peter to pay Paul. If they cannot manage it themselves, then they need to ask for help.