With the US having reached the grim total of over 500,000 Covid deaths, Sam Levin in Los Angeles reports for us on issues with the vaccine roll-out:
California, the largest state in the US, has administered more than 7.3m vaccine doses but is lagging behind other states in vaccine administration. Eligibility is due to dramatically expand in March, but with supplies limited and many doses being used for second shots, essential workers could likely be waiting weeks or longer to get appointments.
The lack of access is particularly frustrating for workers who have faced increasing risks over the last month, as California has moved to reopen parts of the economy and remove restrictions. While infection rates are significantly improving after a catastrophic winter surge, an average of more than 6,000 new cases and 320 deaths are still reported each day.
Facing severe economic strain eleven months into the pandemic, low-wage workers across the state say they can’t afford to stay home from dangerous jobs – and can’t afford to lose income if they get infected. They are exhausted with stressful work conditions and customers who refuse to comply with Covid rules, and are struggling to get basic information on when they might get vaccines.
Dominique Smith, a 33-year-old rideshare driver in Silicon Valley, said he regularly checked his Uber app in hope of an update about vaccine eligibility. He fears he could lose his housing if he contracts Covid from a passenger and then has to stay home: “I do not have enough money saved up to weather three weeks of being sick and out of a job.”
Dr Yvonne Maldonado, a professor of global health and infectious diseases at Stanford, said the Trump administration had not made significant investments in infrastructure to administer vaccines, making the initial rollout especially challenging in a state like California, which has 58 counties and two dense metropolitan regions.
The state has broad guidelines to prioritize immunocompromised people and those with occupational risks, “but the problem is that it’s such a high-level framework that how you operationalize it becomes really tricky”, Maldonado said. “These are tough choices … because you’re judging whose life is worth more. You could make an argument for all kinds of groups.”
Read more of Sam Levin’s report here: ‘We’re risking our lives’ – California’s slow vaccine rollout leaves essential workers exposed