By Ray Richardson
INGLEWOOD — Temporary closings of COVID-19 vaccination sites in Los Angeles never generated concerns that a similar move would affect the Forum.
The Inglewood landmark has been one of the busiest of the county’s five large-capacity vaccination sites and is poised to continue operating for the long term.
“We’ve been told to expect to be here for the duration,’’ said Alvin Brewer, Los Angeles County Fire battalion chief.
The county Fire Department and Department of Public Health collaborated to open the Forum parking lot on Jan. 19 to give first doses of the Pfizer vaccine. Second doses began Feb. 9.
Pfizer is the primary supplier of Forum vaccinations. The Forum has a 21-day window between first and second doses.
As of Feb. 17, a total of 53,993 doses have been given at the Forum on an appointment-only basis to persons 65 and older, frontline medical workers and first responders.
All vaccination seekers must be county residents and are required to make an appointment online at vaccinateLAcounty.com. The Forum site operates daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Brewer said the Forum hopes to increase its productivity when the vaccine supply increases and becomes available to the general public.
A vaccine shortage led the city of Los Angeles to temporarily close five sites, including the Crenshaw Forum vaccinationsThe closures led to a brief surge in appointments last week at the Forum, which had been handling an average of 2,000 doses per day.
“We were prepared for it,” Brewer said. “Our operation here has been pretty smooth. We haven’t had any major issues and most of the feedback from people has been positive.”
The fire department and Department of Public Health are using a huge chunk of the Forum’s parking lot to shuttle in people with appointments. Drivers are required to go through four checkpoints as part of the process. All vaccinations are done in large tents while people sit in their cars. The tents are wide enough for cars to drive through.
Among the checkpoints is an “evaluation area” where drivers must remain for at least 15 minutes to make sure they don’t have an allergic reaction. Average time to get through the Forum site is 45 minutes to an hour, considerably less than the reported three-hour waits at Dodger Stadium.
“The process here went very well,” Sandra Turner of Beverly Hills said after receiving her second dose Feb. 16. “It was well organized. The staff was very friendly.”
The Forum site has attracted people from throughout the county. Sig Smith drove from Venice to get his first and second dose at the Forum.
“I got through in about an hour,” Smith said. “No problem at all. Everybody needs to come out here and get their shot so we can get rid of this virus.”
Those working at the Forum are emphasizing the availability of vaccinations to more Inglewood residents. A majority of the doses have been given to people who don’t live in Inglewood. The staff is trying to increase awareness to residents in nearby Inglewood communities and those within walking distance.
“If somebody doesn’t have a car, and they have limited computer access to make the reservation online, they can walk up here to make a reservation,” said Fabian Herrera, public information officer for the Los Angeles County Fire Department. “We can help them make the reservation. We have a process for people who don’t drive.”
Herrera said walk-up inquiries can be handled on the northeast corner of the Forum parking lot on Kareem Court. A staff person will assist walk-up individuals.
For safety reasons, the Forum parking lot is cordoned off and monitored by security personnel. The general public is not allowed inside the parking lot without a car.
Even joggers and walkers who regularly use the parking lot for exercise must stay on the outer sidewalk.
“We want people coming here to know that we’ve created a safe environment for everyone involved,” Herrera said.
Ray Richardson is a contributing writer for The Wave. He can be reached at email@example.com.