'It's Really a Myth': Even with More Supply, COVID Shots Are Inaccessible to LA's Most Vulnerable

Francesca Billington

Francesca Billington is a freelance reporter. Prior to that, she was a general assignment reporter for dot.LA and has also reported for KCRW, the Santa Monica Daily Press and local publications in New Jersey. She graduated from Princeton in 2019 with a degree in anthropology.

'It's Really a Myth': Even with More Supply, COVID Shots Are Inaccessible to LA's Most Vulnerable

Where are the vaccine clinics open at night?

It's a question volunteers from Get Out the Shot hear often as they book appointments for people who have a hard time doing it themselves — many of them without internet or much free time.

"My fear is the technology and the way you book appointments is not getting easier," said Rebecca Lehrer, who started helping in February when the effort was still driven by a Facebook group.


California's COVID-19 vaccine eligibility tiers will become obsolete next week when anyone 16 or older is free to book an appointment. On Thursday, Long Beach made shots available to all residents 16 and over, while Cal State Los Angeles opened its site up to people at least 18, before it was overwhelmed and started turning crowds away.

The rush at the Los Angeles university may be a sign of what's to come.

Known as GOTS, the volunteer collective of more than 300 is expecting its caseload to get bigger even as more vaccine appointments become available. The group is one of a handful that have cropped up since vaccines landed in California.

Recently, software developers across the country started launching automated websites and Twitter bots to blast out new slots. But those platforms haven't proven to be the solution for everyone.

"It's really a myth," said Liz Schwandt, an L.A. preschool program director who started Get Out the Shot. "Even if supply increases — even if there are more appointments — they're still not grab-able or accessible for the most vulnerable."

Many have specific concerns and requests — ones that make getting a shot much more complicated than just clicking a button on MyTurn.

Some call in because their employers won't give them time off to get vaccinated. Others want to secure an appointment at night, when most clinics are closed. Occasionally, callers are looking for a certain vaccine brand.

And many are nervous about navigating a health care system in which insurance and immigration status are often barriers to care, Schwandt said.

"They're used to having a system that doesn't work for them," said Schwandt.

The issue speaks to the enormous feat of implementing a national vaccination strategy that relies on people having stable internet, job flexibility and free time.

"One of the neighbors I'm trying to book for — who doesn't have internet — is not on Twitter looking at Walgreens' latest appointment drop," said Schwandt.

As the state inches towards an appointment free-for-all, public health officials say they will continue to use single-use "access codes" for target groups and residents in zip codes in the bottom half of the Healthy Places Index.

In February, misuse of state-issued vaccine access codes designed to serve Black and Latino communities rattled California's equity program. Many of the L.A. residents who used and circulated those credentials were not yet eligible.

"Our team is also working closely with community-based organizations that are trusted voices on the ground," added Sami Gallegos, spokesperson for the California Department of Public Health.

Schwandt hopes to secure blocks of appointments next week for those calling in. So far, every person who gets a shot through the service refers about 10 people back.

"People are already calling this week to pre-schedule," said volunteer Michael Altneu, an EMT who plans to administer vaccinations in Del Mar later this month. "I think people are going to try to do it first on their own. A few days after, when all the shots get booked up, we're going to see a deluge of calls."

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Cedars Sinai Health Ventures’ Maureen Klewicki on How Tech Is Changing Health Care

Minnie Ingersoll
Minnie Ingersoll is a partner at TenOneTen and host of the LA Venture podcast. Prior to TenOneTen, Minnie was the COO and co-founder of $100M+ Shift.com, an online marketplace for used cars. Minnie started her career as an early product manager at Google. Minnie studied Computer Science at Stanford and has an MBA from HBS. She recently moved back to L.A. after 20+ years in the Bay Area and is excited to be a part of the growing tech ecosystem of Southern California. In her space time, Minnie surfs baby waves and raises baby people.
Maureen Klewicki
Image courtesy of Maureen Klewicki

On this episode of the LA Venture podcast, Cedars Sinai Health Ventures’ Maureen Klewicki talks about price transparency for health care, the labor shortage crisis and emerging models of health care.

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Have a Look Inside Amazon's New Store in Glendale

Drew Grant

Drew Grant is dot.LA's Senior Editor. She's a media veteran with over 15-plus years covering entertainment and local journalism. During her tenure at The New York Observer, she founded one of their most popular verticals, tvDownload, and transitioned from generalist to Senior Editor of Entertainment and Culture, overseeing a freelance contributor network and ushering in the paper's redesign. More recently, she was Senior Editor of Special Projects at Collider, a writer for RottenTomatoes streaming series on Peacock and a consulting editor at RealClearLife, Ranker and GritDaily. You can find her across all social media platforms as @Videodrew and send tips to drew@dot.la.

Amazon Style Glendale
Image by Joshua Letona

Starting today, Glendale’s most meme-able outdoor mall, The Americana at Brand, will be home to the Amazon Style store—the ecommerce giant’s first foray into brick-and-mortar apparel retail. We got an early sneak peak inside the new digs (located on the corner with Sprinkles Cupcakes, next to H&M and the Apple store) and were able to try out some of its tech-enabled features, which—as ever with Amazon—seek to make the act of shopping as easy as possible.

1. It’s Bigger Than It Looks—Even From the Inside

The floor is massive—laying out original products from Amazon’s own apparel lines alongside name brands like Theory, Adidas and Calvin Klein, as well as several other lines that have up until now only existed online. But the actual store is much larger than the two floors that most customers will only ever see.

Amazon Style is just the front—the homepage, if you will—behind which a large warehouse facility keeps a gigantic surplus of inventory. A floor-to-ceiling glass window on the main floor gives shoppers just a peak behind the scenes, as employees help load industrial-sized elevators with racks of goods to send upstairs to the dressing rooms.

2. Online Shopping IRL

When perusing the store’s bouquet of cottagecore maxi dresses, Kendall & Kylie blazers and, yes, a whole section dedicated to Y2K apparel, one doesn’t just pick an item off the rack and take it with you while you shop. Instead, each rack has a barcode that you can scan via the Amazon Shopping app, which has your sizes pre-loaded from previous purchases. (Though you can, of course, opt for a different size if you choose.) That cues an AI-enabled algorithm to start searching through the store’s warehoused catalog and zip the desired item over to the second floor, where the dressing room provides its own glimpse into the future of shopping.

The store also boasts a version of The Drop, a Style staple that allows online customers to shop an entire influencer-curated collections for a 30-hour flash window.

3. Changing Stations of the Future—Today

Your phone also acts as your keycard to get into your personal dressing room. To prevent waiting, you are put in a virtual cue the moment you scan your first item; should your screen prompt that your room is ready while you’re still shopping, a press of a button allows you to hold your spot in the queue while freeing up the room for someone else. (I have no idea how any of this works if your phone dies; ostensibly it can’t, and you will be forced to go home empty-handed—or worse, to The Cheesecake Factory while your device charges.)

Amazon Style’s dressing rooms offer a tech-enabled twist to trying on clothes.Image by Joshua Letona

The changing room is like its own parlor trick. Designed to look like a walk-in closet, one wall has a full length mirror and a giant touchscreen while another has all the clothes you scanned in your style and size preference. Expect to see a few surprises in there, as the algorithm picks out other stuff you might want to try on based on your picks. It would be spooky if it wasn’t so convenient—an IRL mashup of the online retailer’s “Recommended Based on Your Purchases” and “Frequently Bought Together” features.

If an item doesn’t fit quite right or you want to see how a skirt looks in blue instead of black, just tap the touchscreen to request a variant. Or an entirely new outfit, as the screen makes available everything in the facility. Then just bring it down to checkout...perhaps the wildest part of this ride.

4. Palming the Bucks

Checking out of Amazon Style’s flagship store is what really blew my mind—although apparently it’s because I haven’t been to one of the Amazon Go, Amazon Fresh or Whole Foods locations where cashless checkouts have been an option in select locations since 2020

I assumed you would just walk out the door with it, because I watch Saturday Night Live sketches for news. While the Go payment option isn't available at Amazon Style, there are several checkout options to keep the experience as frictionless and non-cumbersome as possible.

In one scenario, you take the clothes you want out of the dressing room, and go directly to Amazon’s palm-enabled checkout kiosks. That’s right: register on the spot for an Amazon One account, and you need merely to wave your hand over a little black device that reads your palm and charges your on-file payment method. Super convienent for everyone except $10 boardwalk psychics, who are about to be put out of business.

For the more traditional set, you still have the option of paying via credit card or cash.

Shoppers can check out of Amazon Style with the wave of a palm. Image by Joshua Letona

5. Supply & Demand & Return

Amazon Style’s brick-and-mortar location opens up a variety of new ways to shop, return and exchange clothing. For instance, you can order a load of clothes online and pick them up in the store; anything you don’t want can be returned in the store without you ever having to print a shipping label.

See something you like but don’t have time to try it on? Just scan the barcode, pick it up at the front of the store and pay on your way out without ever going into a dressing room.

The Amazon Shopping app also boasts a Deals feature, which automatically sorts for the best price on items to help customers either save money (or believe they are).

While Glendale is home to the only Style store so far, Amazon isn’t ruling out more locations. With fewer retailers able to afford rents on America’s main strips and shopping malls, Amazon’s resources—and its unique position at the intersection of tech and retail—make it easy to envision more Style stores on the horizon.

A Look Inside Amazon's New Retail Store in Glendale

Image by Joshua Letona

Gaming Will Keep Growing Despite Economic Woes, Netflix Exec Says

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Gaming Will Keep Growing Despite Economic Woes, Netflix Exec Says
Photo courtesy of Netflix

The economic headwinds that are hurting tech companies these days won’t halt gaming’s growing popularity, according to Netflix Vice President of Games Mike Verdu.

During a panel discussion Tuesday at the Montgomery Summit conference in Santa Monica, Verdu said the roughly 3 billion people who currently play video games will continue to grow in number. He agreed that gaming can even be countercyclical—meaning that the industry can sometimes do better during tough economic conditions. And he predicted that the industry will continue to see more consolidation as tech and media giants, including Netflix, gobble up game developers.

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