VENICE, Calif. — For months, mega-sites and hospitals have been at the forefront of providing COVID-19 vaccines for those eligible in Los Angeles County.

Residents have faced challenges booking appointments through the county and state vaccination sites. But one tier of healthcare providers has been largely left out of the vaccine equity equation.

What You Need To Know

  • Venice Family Clinic receives only 200 Moderna vaccines per week

  • Community clinic patients are often described as low-income and persons of color

  • Some of VFC's patients in need of vaccinations lack internet access, transportation, and time to navigate appointments through state and county sites

  • Dr. Barbara Ferrer shared that allocations of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine could help mobile sites and clinics gain access to additional vaccines

Community clinics that often treat low-income individuals and people of color, who have been hit the hardest by the virus, are having a hard time securing enough vaccines for their patients. Recently, the Venice Family Clinic had been approved to receive only 200 doses of the Moderna vaccine for their patients each week. Kennetha Gaines, the clinic's director of nursing, shared they would need at least ten times that amount to vaccinate their eligible patients, who might not have opportunities to go elsewhere.

“It’s disheartening because we have the infrastructure to provide the vaccines for our patients, and not being able to get that allocation, we’re actually harming the community,” Gaines said.

Nearly 2.5 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been distributed throughout L.A. County so far. State vaccination data shows that people of color are receiving the least vaccinations. That's why Gaines wants to see more support from health officials to properly supply community clinics that can play a vital role in vaccinating underserved communities.

Many of the clinic’s patients lack transportation, online access or have limited time to try and navigate the state’s website — barriers that Gaines believes can make it difficult to access the vaccine.

“Community clinics service one out of five patients, and so just thinking about those numbers and how, when you add vaccines to that, how much we could be a resource to be able to give the vaccines to our patients,” Gaines said.

Each eligible patient that received a vaccine at the Venice Family Clinic was contacted by the provider to answer any questions a patient might have and to make an appointment for their first dose. The outreach has been helping patients bypass vaccine misinformation and any challenges a patient might have in gaining access to the vaccine.

While the majority of the vaccine supply has been allocated to city, county, and hospital sites, many community clinics are struggling to gain access to additional vaccines. L.A. County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer shared how that might change as more vaccines make their way to the county.

"Now that we are getting Johnson & Johnson vaccines, it’s a one dose vaccine," she said. "It’s way easier to think about mobile teams and expanding our capacity to have hundreds of mobile teams that are able to get into communities, go site-to-site and not really rely on people getting to some of the mega-sites."

Gaines remains hopeful that more vaccines will become available in time to help protect their 28,000 patients throughout West L.A.

"We’re offering comprehensive care, we offer vaccines, we’re part of the system as it is anyway," she said. "And so being able to provide this access, it means the world for patients, but also for us, as clinicians, that we are able to provide this really dire service."

As more vaccines begin to become available, Gaines added that she wants to see more community clinics receive enough supplies to vaccinate some of the hardest hit and under-served communities in need.

The California Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force shared the following statement on the allocation of vaccines: "Every county, every state, every country wishes they had more vaccines and it's constrained by manufacturing, but California continues to work closely with the Biden administration to increase supply for providers statewide."