LOS ANGELES (AP) — California’s governor received his “one and done” Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine Thursday, as people 50 and older became eligible for inoculations in the most populous state in the country.
A masked Gov. Gavin Newsom kept the mood of the livestreamed vaccination light, bantering as he pulled up the short sleeve of his T-shirt to expose his upper arm. He joked that he brought his own doctor, Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly.
“Nothing to be nervous about,” Ghaly said before poking the governor with a needle.
Newsom, 53, received his vaccination as millions more Californians became eligible Thursday to make appointments for the available doses, a process that remains frustrating for many. Unlike most residents, however, Newsom did not have to wade through the state’s online portal and other separate sites to get a vaccination appointment, or wake up in the middle of the night trying to score a last-minute opening.
“I just encourage everyone 50 and over, do what I just did, and I would encourage you, when you’re curious, what’s the best vaccine to take? The best vaccine is the next one available,” he said.
The event took place at the largely vacant Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, a shopping mall in a historically Black neighborhood in Los Angeles. LA County Supervisor Holly Mitchell said it was critical to highlight the disproportionate economic and health effects of the pandemic on working class people and communities of color, particularly for Black and Latino Californians.
Mitchell cheered as Yolanda Richardson, the state secretary in charge of vaccination operations, also received the J&J vaccine. Both women are African American.
California has administered more than 18 million doses as of Thursday and 6.7 million people are fully vaccinated. But the governor warned that getting to herd immunity may take months and depends on supply. Last week, the state administered 2.5 million shots, about the amount California expects to receive next week, he said.
The state of nearly 40 million residents is coming back to life as more business sectors reopen following a crushing winter surge. California’s case and death rates remain low but unlike in some other states, cautious health officials have asked people to continue wearing masks and maintain social distancing rules in order to avoid another surge.
On Thursday, the touristy and popular Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk reopened to visitors while in Oakland, the A’s prepared to welcome a limited number of fans to their opening day game. Other major league baseball teams, the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Angels, were also preparing for games in San Diego and in Anaheim, respectively.
Newsom, a Democrat, is likely to face a recall election from opponents critical of his handling of the pandemic, who argue that he put overly tight constraints on businesses and failed to reopen schools to in-class instruction soon enough.
“Having bungled California’s vaccine rollout from the very beginning, Gavin Newsom is fortunate to receive his shot today as so many others continue to wait,” California Republican Party Chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson said in a statement.
LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, also a Democrat, defended Newsom for making the hard calls and said he hoped the governor felt the joy that comes with the jab of a vaccination.
“It happens in a split-second, it doesn’t hurt, and yet it transforms everything,” Garcetti said. “The melting away of a year of suffering and trauma and pain begins to finally go away.”
The governor, dressed casually in jeans and a T-shirt, sat on a folding plastic chair. He breathed in deeply after the shot then disappeared from cameras for his 15-minute waiting period.
The official first partner, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, will get vaccinated when she becomes eligible in two weeks, when appointments open for residents 16 and older, he said.