Los Angeles County officials on Sunday reported 240 new coronavirus cases and seven new related deaths, reflecting the continuing decline in the spread of infection as the local vaccination campaign builds.
Just over half of L.A. County residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine thus far, amounting to a total of 8.7 million doses administered, according to The Times’ tracker. This is slightly more than the 47% of Americans nationwide who have received at least one dose.
But as demand for vaccination begins to wane, health officials are pushing for parents to bring their children to get immunized, after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last week authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages 12 to 15.
There are 2.1 million Californians in that age range, and vaccinating this group could significantly slow the pandemic, experts say. In recent weeks, coronavirus cases have been increasing among younger people, both in California and nationally.
The Pfizer vaccine requires two doses spaced three weeks apart and permission from a guardian. COVID-19 vaccines are free and available to anyone regardless of insurance or immigration status.
Officials say increasing vaccinations will protect children from falling sick with the virus and infecting others, and will help the effort to achieve herd immunity. Vaccinating adolescents will also help protect children 11 and younger, including babies and toddlers, who are not likely to get access to the vaccine for months.
Additionally, the vaccines will protect youth from a rare but serious and potentially deadly complication associated with COVID-19 known as multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C.
The syndrome can cause inflammation in a child’s body parts, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes or gastrointestinal organs. Of the 508 MISC-C cases in California, 21 have resulted in deaths, including two in L.A. County.
L.A. officials also reported Sunday that 325 people were in the hospital with COVID-19, a significant drop from a peak of more than 8,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients in January during the region’s winter surge.
The virus has receded rapidly across the region in the last few months, allowing a broad reopening of the economy and the hope for a return to some kind of normality by the summer.
California is now close to the bottom of the nation when it comes to coronavirus case rates. With increasing vaccinations, officials estimate that the county could reach herd immunity — with around 80% of the population eligible for vaccinations immunized — by July.
Times staff writer Rong-Gong Lin II contributed to this report.