By CBSLA Staff

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – At least half of all Los Angeles County residents age 16 and older are now fully vaccinated, officials announced Monday.

Fully vaccinated customers gather at Risky Business in North Hollywood on May 21, 2021. In order to go inside Risky Business, members must present their original vaccination card after being fully vaccinated, paying a small membership fee, signing a risk release form with penalties for lying. (Getty Images)

READ MORE: LA County To Ease Masking Guidelines, Physical Distancing Requirements June 15

According to figures released Monday, nearly 4.2 million L.A. County residents have now received two doses of vaccine and are considered fully vaccinated.

“We can now proudly say that more than 50% of L.A. County residents 16 and older have received two doses of the vaccine,” L.A. County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said Monday. “It is truly thrilling to see us reach this landmark, and I want to thank everyone who’s done their part to get us to this point.”

Since they’ve been eligible for shots longer, the 65-plus age group has the highest rate of vaccinations, at 72%. Among those aged 16-17, the rate is 28%, while the 16-64 group is at 46%.

While improvements continue to be made in each group, Ferrer noted that “lower vaccination rates in younger age groups means not only are people in those age groups more likely to transmit COVID-19, but they’re also more likely to suffer its severe consequences.”

According to Ferrer, between April 1 and May 15, the 30-49 age group had the highest number of people hospitalized due to COVID-19, at more than 600.

“This is the first time over the course of the pandemic that we’ve seen this happen,” she said. “Before April, this age group consistently saw lower hospitalization rates when compared to other age groups. If we look at a different six-week period, last October pre-surge, we can see a stark difference. Even when our numbers were not at their highest, older people have always been more likely to be hospitalized.”

She attributed the sudden change to a “gap in protection.”

“Older adults, particularly those over 65, are now protected by their high vaccination rates,” she said. “Children and young adults may be protected by virtue both of their youth and by the masking requirements in place at their schools. But people in the middle group — many of them are workers and people responsible for the care of others — are not as well- protected by either of these factors. And if they’re not vaccinated, they are highly likely to end up with a COVID infection, and unfortunately, as we see, disproportionately likely to end up in the hospitals.”

In hopes of getting more people to vaccination sites, the county plans to offer more incentives, with prizes such as gift cards and sports tickets likely to be offered in coming weeks. Ferrer said the giveaways will be announced through the county’s social media platforms.

Last week, state health officials announced that, beginning June 15, California will no longer will require social distancing and will allow full capacity for businesses. The L.A. Department of Public Health confirmed Friday that it would align with the state’s June 15 plans.

L.A. County, meanwhile, reported just four new COVID-19 deaths on Monday, lifting the overall death toll to 24,175.

Another 152 infections were announced by L.A. County raising the total from throughout the pandemic to 1,238,931.

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)